Do we need the WSE now that we’re getting a bridge?

Map with 3rd Crossing

Approximate route of proposed WSE (red), K&P trail (blue), and Third Crossing (purple)

Let’s answer this question head on, as it seems to have raised its ugly head again recently. Council has approved the Third Crossing to be built across the Cataraqui River, connecting to John Counter Boulevard on the west side. Does that provide a rationale for the Wellington Street Extension, which, if built, would run from John Counter Boulevard south to downtown Kingston?

NO! If anything, the Third Crossing provides an additional reason NOT to build the WSE. Why? Because the Third Crossing is conceived as a way to move east/west traffic, and to reduce north/south traffic related to people getting to or coming from the causeway or the 401. 

This claim is supported by the City’s own analysis of how traffic patterns will change after the Third Crossing is built. The report on the City’s Third Crossing website titled Background and Strategic Case for the Third Crossing states that Third Crossing traffic will have two main components: 

  • 20% of Highway 401 traffic going between the north-west and north-central parts of the city and the east side of the Cataraqui River

I.E., NONE of that traffic would go north/south to and from downtown, and thus none of those drivers would use the WSE, if built.

  • 20% of La Salle Causeway traffic going between the west, south-west, and south-central parts of the city and the east side of the Cataraqui River

I.E., only a small percentage of drivers coming from the east side would head south from the Third Crossing to downtown (south-central Kington). The rest would head straight west or west and then south. Let’s say 1/4 of the 20% redirected from the Causeway heads to downtown. That’s only 5% of the current Causeway traffic.**

THE BOTTOM LINE:  a substantial amount of current north-south traffic is just people getting to and coming from the causeway. The Third Crossing is predicted to reduce that traffic. Our rapidly expanding and improving Kingston Transit (have you tried the new Montreal Express bus?) will reduce it further. 

Taking another look at the aerial photo at the top of the post, consider what the WSE would look like, if built.

It would ruin human and wildlife habitats in Doug Fluhrer Park. 

It would run adjacent to most of the splendid new K&P recreational trail below John Counter, converting a quiet trail to a noisy bike lane.  

Even if it were built, drivers crossing the bridge from the east and heading downtown would likely choose to go south on Montreal St. at John Counter Boulevard, rather than on the proposed WSE, since the WSE would be further west and thus out of their way.

And at some places the WSE would be merely one house-width away from Rideau Street. Imagine how unpleasant it would be to live or work on Rideau Street if it were built. Currently, the backs of those properties overlook the quiet, landscaped K&P trail.

Yes, we want all Kingston residents to have easy access to downtown, and yes, we know that many people drive to get around. But by the numbers, the WSE is still not needed. And, of course, the multitude of very strong arguments against building the WSE that have nothing to do with the Third Crossing still hold. For an excellent overview, see:  What is the WSE and why don’t we want It? 

And feel free to send your questions to us — we’ve spent a lot of time with these maps and documents and are happy to try to answer them. 

— Mary McCollam

** The east/west traffic flow that would be created by the Third Crossing is also illustrated by the maps in Figures 3 and 4 on pages 9 and 10 of the City report, Background and Strategic Case for the Third Crossing.

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Walk ‘n’ Roll Rocks

Wellington X is deeply committed to pedestrian, transit and cycling infrastructure as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and traffic congestion, and to promote active, enjoyable living. We aim to live in a city where road building is an option of last resort after all other transportation and land use options are fully considered.

If you feel the same, you’ll want to know about the draft Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP), Walk ’n’ Roll, that was released this past Friday, and the two upcoming information Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. 

Walk ‘n’ Roll will be the Kingston’s first comprehensive Active Transportation Master Plan, developed in response to Council’s directive that 20% of all travel be via active transportation by 2034. Currently it’s about 12%. The downtown stats are better: over 50% of the working population in North King’s Town bike or walk to work. And over 75% in the downtown core and general Williamsville area do so. We hope that Council will prioritize implementation of the ATMP and achieve or surpass the 20% goal.

How Good is the Draft ATMP?

Overall, it looks good. Its implementation would significantly support active transportation in Kingston.

Here are a couple of positive points as examples of the plan’s strengths. It looks like the plan shows “In-Boulevard Trails” along Sir John A McDonald, Highway 15 and some other busy north/south roads. An In-Boulevard Trail is a separated space along a roadway instead of a sidewalk that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists. (The explanations of the various terms for types of lanes and paths can be found in Section 3.4 of the Draft ATMP on page 63.) The plan for these in-boulevard trails is positive because separated lanes along busy roads are safe and could be used for commuting via e-bikes, as well as regular bikes. Also, some of these in-boulevard trails meet up with the K&P trail to the north, providing an enjoyable commuter or recreational route.

Section 4.4.1 suggests that the City’s development charges bylaw should be changed to allow these charges to be used to fund Active Transportation network improvements. Great suggestion!

However, there are aspects that need improvement. Poor resolution maps with similar colours used to designate very different types of bicycle lanes make things confusing, but we are concerned that downtown cycling is not sufficiently prioritized. This is definitely something to ask about. And, directly related to Wellington X’s home turf, we are concerned that there is not a strong enough commitment to retaining or enhancing the K&P Trail as an off-road trail. 

It looks like the plan shows no improvement planned for the bike paths downtown on Johnson and Brock Streets! Will we have the  same “signed roads with sharrows” (chevrons painted on the pavement in lanes shared with cars) rather than separate bike lanes on Johnson and Brock, and for Princess St., as well? It’s difficult to tell what, if any, biking infrastructure is planned for Queen Street. If we are interpreting the maps correctly, that could mean four parallel streets through downtown that all remain unsafe for bikes. Really? And they say they’re trying to encourage active transportation to downtown businesses?

Beyond the basic necessity for safety, the plan seems to fall short in encouraging cycling routes that are pleasant. Pleasure is implied in the image they’ve chosen for Walk ‘n’ Roll, but is not included in the vision or principles. It’s the combination of pleasure and safety that will attract new cyclists. Make it a nice experience and people will want to do it. For example, the city needs to be more aware of the newly-available pedal-assisted e-bikes. These bikes — which look like mountain bikes and require pedalling — have great potential for enhancing tourism and extending commutes (with no need to take a shower once one arrives). They are a moderate form of exercise accessible to adults of all ages with a wide range of abilities. Dockless pedal e-bike sharing systems are also now available at prices comparable to those for regular bikes. And they are really fun! Talk about motivating change to use active transportation. The ATMP should include pedal e-bikes and dockless sharing systems in Section 4.4.1, Additional Initiatives. 

There are a number of new urban trails specified in the ATMP (Great!), but nothing about the value of off-road trails is included, and there is nothing about protecting current off-road trails. It’s possible that this omission could result in off-road trails being removed from plans during the implementation stages.

The K&P trail is mentioned repeatedly in the ATMP, and is shown on the maps as primarily an off-road trail, including most of the urban portion, but there is no statement anywhere that promotes protecting the K&P trail as an off-road trail. The public, on the other hand, have explicitly and repeatedly stated that the urban K&P trail should be protected and that the Wellington Street Extension should not be built alongside it, as indicated in both of the feedback reports of the open houses.

The public has also suggested prioritizing a pedestrian bridge to connect the K&P trail to north of the train tracks safely. This is referred to in the ATMP, but only as “desired.” A strong case for this option should be included in the plan.

What should I do?

Go to one of the Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour.

And/or look at the Draft ATMP on the Walk ’n’ Roll website at https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/walk-roll-kingston and send your comments to the project team at walkroll@cityofkingston.ca.

Maps can be found in the Executive Summary between pages 8 and 9. Two key maps are labeled Map ES.2: Cycling Network by Facility Type (Urban Area) and Map ES.3: Pedestrian Network by Facility Type (Urban Area).

Tell them what you like about the draft ATMP and what you think should be improved. You will each have your own priorities, concerns, and ideas, and that is wonderful. The main thing they need to hear is that people want active transportation to be made more safe and more pleasant. 

Thank you!

— Mary McCollam

Call to Action: Public Meetings on February 28 and March 8

On the evening of February 21, members of WellingtonX met with representatives from IBI Group and Patry Inc. (Mark Touw and Rob Gibson), at their invitation, to learn about Kingston developer Jay Patry’s proposal for the Davis Tannery site. It was an informative meeting.

The plan is not new: as some of you will remember, it was developed and proposed to the City in 2014. But Patry only acquired the tannery lands from Rideau Renewal in fall 2017. This week he released a slightly revised plan which has been submitted for various approvals – a process which requires a public meeting to be held in City Hall on March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Here is what the development would look like:

Patry proposes to build 1500 units (80% rental, 20% condos) plus some commercial space in four blocks of 6-story wooden-frame buildings to occupy 9 out of 13 hectares of the waterfront site. Each unit will have 1.25 parking spots in above-ground lots “wrapped” by buildings. Because of the extreme toxicity of the former industrial site, major remediation will have to take place and the whole developed part will be capped with clay. There will be amenities such as pools, and Patry is proposing that the Rowing Club move a little north to be part of his project. There is a setback along the waterfront, as required because of municipal and provincial “ribbon of life” policies. River Street and two other entrances at the western side will connect the development to the Wellington Street Extension.

Wait: say that again?

Yes, you read right: Mark Touw explained to us that for a development of this size, the Wellington Street Extension would need to be built. Indeed, Patry is counting on the construction of the WSE. He is going ahead seeking approvals before the North King’s Town Secondary Plan – initiated with the express purpose (see Council minutes of May 5, 2015) of finding alternatives to the WSE – is complete.

We know, and planning staff and consultants know, that the majority of those who have participated in the North King’s Town planning process are against the WSE [see here and here]. The Visioning Report from June 2017 states that “a large majority of people who provided comments during the Study were overwhelmingly opposed to building the proposed WSE,” and includes attention to other community concerns such as active transportation, heritage, greenspace, and affordable housing.

However, all we have so far with the NKT is its first phase: a pretty vision. The next phase of the Secondary Planning process, getting underway now, is where the rubber hits the road. Or the @#$% hits the fan. This is when we get into details about land use, transportation and infrastructure, and so on. The first public meetings are next week, February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street.

It’s tedious, sure, but it’s even more important we engage this time than it was in the first phase. We have to be there because we live here, and we want to continue to live here. We have to insist that a good plan be developed, and that it be respected. The tannery lands are only one part of the NKT area. We can’t get too focused on them because there are other sites and issues that need attention. Consultants and staff may advise us that we can’t discuss a project on private lands that is going through approval before the results of the planning exercise are complete. But the Patry proposal should remind us of the stakes of this planning process and why it’s so important to get it right. The Patry proposal is what we will get if we don’t get — and follow — a good plan. So, again: February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street — see more information here

The March 8 special Planning Committee meeting (6:30 p.m., City Hall) is all about the Patry proposal — it’s the best occasion to speak directly to City Council and City staff and get into the full range of varied concerns about the future of the tannery lands. Public safety, for example (Patry estimates that 400,000 tonnes of soil would have to be remediated or removed from the site. Where is this contaminated soil going to go? Is it safe to disturb? How many thousands of truckloads of hazardous material would exit the site, and what impact would this activity have on the surrounding neighbourhood?). Habitat protection, waterfront naturalization, design, the need for more affordable housing, prioritizing transit and active transportation instead of adding 1800 cars onto nearby streets, and so on and so forth: lots of things to talk about.

The IBI representative did acknowledge that the developers expect several months of back and forth revisions over the proposal, and that the plan will and can change to some extent within the general framework of the existing proposal. Construction will likely continue over ten to fifteen years in four phases. Mark said that the existing road network would not suffice after the third phase. There are many changes required to make this proposal acceptable — but a bottom-line for Wellington X is that any development must be WSE-free.

At the March 8 meeting, we will remind the Planning Committee and Council that if approved as proposed, this project would preempt the due process of community-engaged planning. The Patry proposal presumes the construction of the Wellington Street Extension and, given that City Council promised full public consultation via an objective planning process on this issue, a hasty approval would undermine the very integrity of the Council.

Despite what some may think, WellingtonX is not opposed to development. What we do oppose is development imposed upon the residents — two-legged and four-legged — of North King’s Town. We look forward to working with others to preserve and grow our community. Please join us at one or both of the upcoming meetings.

— Laura Murray and  Anne Lougheed

In which Wellington X Meets with the Mayor and Promenades on Princess Street

You may have seen the Whig-Standard’s article in early September entitled “City to address Wellington St. Extension: Mayor.” The piece caused a fair bit of alarm in the community, and we thought we should speak with the mayor to clarify his plans.

In a cordial meeting, Mr. Paterson told us that he’d also been surprised at the article and its headline, and surmised that the reporter had used a couple of comments made to him after a council meeting to craft an article. He says he would prefer to see green space preserved and sees no reason to bring more cars downtown. However, he told us that he wants to see road network improvements that would result in better access to landlocked properties in the Old Industrial Area, and that would incentivize development on brownfield sites in the Inner Harbour. He asks, what do we need to do to attract developers to come in and for development to take place? He thinks this may be possible with the upgrade or expansion of existing roads, or with a hybrid solution- upgrades in conjunction with new roads. He’s willing to look at all options and says he won’t exclude any possibilities.

The mayor agrees that the K&P trail is a great asset for the city and has always supported it. Although he thinks that the K&P should be considered when looking at a possible road network in the Old Industrial Area, he is not willing to reject an option that might have a road next to part of the K&P in that area.

We were concerned that Mr. Paterson didn’t seem to have a grasp of the timeline for the North King’s Town secondary planning process. He wondered if some of the technical studies might be available to Council by next spring, before the secondary plan is completed. In our understanding, no decision about the WSE can be made before the plan is completed and approved by Council, and the consultants have not even been hired yet; it seems impossible that it could be completed before the election in fall 2018. We will continue to follow and discuss this with Planning staff and Councillors.

For more energizing discussions, we are always happy to meet our fellow Kingstonians on the streets. A couple of days before our meeting with the mayor, we had a booth at the fall edition of the Princess St. Promenade. We brought Nancy Douglas along and her splendid map banner of the neighbourhoods and landscapes near the planned WSE — kids and adults alike had the chance to use glue and scissors to add their sense of what is valuable in this space.

The event gave us an opportunity to speak with residents from all over town. We encountered a broad interest in active and public transportation, and a skepticism about increasing road capacity for cars. A woman who lives north of the city said that she and her spouse started taking the bus from a Park and Ride to get to work at Queen’s because parking near Queen’s is so difficult, and they find the bus very convenient. We heard comments such as, “If you build another road, you just get more traffic.”

It was interesting that quite a number of people we spoke with have recently moved to Kingston. They may not have heard of the WSE, but they were surprised at the idea, and were very vocal about supporting public and active transit which they experienced elsewhere, or moved here hoping to find. They considered traffic congestion a non-issue here compared to what they had experienced in Montreal, Toronto, and Washington D.C. One couple who just moved here from Montreal said that with all of the bike lanes there now, the rush hour congestion in their old neighbourhood was primarily from bikes. Someone else said that they were surprised and dismayed when they moved to Kingston at the lack of bike paths, especially downtown. They said that they didn’t feel safe bicycling downtown. (This is a comment we’ve heard many times.) However, many of the newcomers had already discovered the K&P trail and appreciated it. They were aghast to hear that there is the possibility that a road would be built next to it.

“But the trail is so beautiful. A road next to it would ruin it”.

In fact, overall, the K&P Trail was the biggest topic of conversation. After all, the WSE as planned is set to run right beside it up through the Old Industrial Area.

“Why would the city put a road there when they just spent all of this money on the trail?”

The public is already invested in and actively using the trail. A young person, 12 or 13 years old, said, “My friend uses the K&P trail a lot because it’s near her house. It’s how she gets downtown. We bike and skateboard there.”

People were also asking for improvements to the trail. There were safety concerns, such as the lack of reflector tape on the black gates, and worries about the dangerous intersection at the bridge on Division Street at John Counter Boulevard. There was also frustration that the poor signage makes it difficult to find where the trail goes north of Counter St., and that the trail north of Counter to Binnington Court is primarily on ugly roads and bumpy trails. Several people who live north of Kingston said they would use the trail to commute to work in town if these concerns were addressed.

Our impression is that many people stay in Kingston or move to Kingston because it offers the possibility of a relatively ‘green’ lifestyle — and so far, the City is balking at truly embracing the infrastructure that would support that.

One resident said something that resonated with me for many days after: that the infrastructure we’re building is for the way things used to be. Needs are going to change as the climate changes. People are concerned about climate resilience. This will be the challenge as we plan our city for an unpredictable future.

We’ve always maintained that the WSE is an outdated proposal: now, more than ever, we have to prioritize green infrastructure over grey.

— Anne Lougheed, with additional notes from Mary McCollam

Nesting Neighbours

Visitors to Douglas Fluhrer Park will notice the turtles basking on the logs in the Cataraqui River during the warmer months, but for the past two summers people may also have noticed pieces of mesh screening nailed over depressions in the ground in various locations around the park. These covers are to protect turtle nests or suspected nests from predation. Likely predators of turtle eggs are skunks, raccoons, and foxes. During May, June, and July, a dozen volunteers took turns visiting the park in the morning and again later in the day, several times a week. This summer, as in the previous summer, they covered over 100 nests or suspected nests. Despite a late start to the summer weather, and the upheaval in the park during trail construction last year, it appears that Fluhrer Park — especially the stretch where the WSE would go — is a favourite nesting area for painted, snapping, and northern map turtles. A paved road would certainly make it impossible for them to nest here.

Twice during the summer, students Aaron Sneep and Dayna Zunder from Queen’s University came to the park to record the gps coordinates of the nests. You can see the map showing the locations of the nest covers here (the covers have since been removed). Turtles may dig decoy nests (holes that they’ve peed in) to throw off predators, and it’s hard to tell the difference, so that’s why some of the holes were recorded as “suspected nests” — but we are confident that most were real nests.

Furthermore, as one of the volunteers who visited the park weekly to look for nesting turtles, I was struck by the fact that for every nest I covered there were a number of nests nearby that had already been predated. A predated nest is a hole surrounded by broken shell, which looks like bits of popped white balloon. This observation leads me to believe that there are or were many more nests in the park then are registered on the map. It was also observed that very few covered nests were excavated by predators, so the covers appeared to be helping.

It’s possible that tiny turtles will be hatching now, and will be moving through the park. Keep your eyes peeled — and send us photos if you happen to be lucky to catch the moment.

— Anne Lougheed

 

Celebrating What We Have

Wellington X decided to start out the summer season in a spirit of celebration.

Last weekend we hosted a plant swap in Doug Fluhrer Park that exceeded all expectations. People brought whole tarp-loads of perennials and flats of tomatoes — others left with new treasures. We had nothing left at the end. We met new people. And we celebrated the lovely green parkspace, habitat to plants, people, turtles.

This weekend we set up a sequence of signs on the K&P Trail during the launch day, just in behind Quattrocchi’s, and talked with scads of people who were surprised and shocked to hear that the City proposes to build a road having just built such a promising trail. We served lemonade and basked in the sun, surrounded by birds and newly applied grass seed. Down behind the legion, cycling enthusiasts traded tips and watched a softball game.

 

It was such an affirmative and lovely start to the summer. Here’s hoping that now that the K&P is open, more people from all parts of town will want to keep this corridor of the city’s transportation and recreation infrastructure car-free.

— Laura Murray

Improved NKT Visioning Report

DIALOG Map

Last November we asked you to write letters suggesting changes to the North King’s Town Visioning Report and Preliminary Market Analysis. Boy, did you ever come through! WellingtonX was copied on more than 65 letters, and planners received about 120 submissions altogether.

Because of the extensive public input, the revised draft report is now a solid foundation for the next phase of planning. We would like to thank all of you. If there are further changes that you would like to see, you can send comments until Monday, April 24th to nktplan@cityofkingston.ca. Just remember, the real work will have to be done in the next phase of the Secondary Plan, and we probably don’t want to slow this down any more at this point. 

We would like to thank City Staff in the planning department and the DIALOG team for the work that went into making substantial improvements in the revised report, and for responding to community feedback. 

Significant improvements were made with regard to the proposed Wellington Street Extension, the Waterfront, Transit and Active Transportation, Natural Heritage, Wildlife Habitat, Cultural Heritage and Social Equity. 

For example, compare the descriptions of the transportation study that will be completed during the next phase of the Secondary Plan:

Before revision (p. 81):

“The transportation study should revaluate the need for the Wellington Street Extension, in consultation with the public, using a study framework that balances transportation, place-making, and urban design objectives. The study framework must also prioritize the Vision’s objective to create a pedestrian-oriented environment and multi-modal street network.”

After revision (p. 100):

“The transportation study will re-evaluate the need for all portions of the proposed Wellington Street Extension, in consultation with the public, using a study framework that balances a variety of objectives that are important to the community and that will be given emphasis over accommodating the transportation demands of personal vehicles. These objectives include, but are not limited to:

  • protection of the waterfront, parks and open spaces;
  • protection of natural heritage resources;
  • protection of cultural heritage resources, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Rideau Canal;
  • promoting environmental sustainability;
  • promoting active transportation and transit;
  • improving access and multi-modal connectivity within NKT and to adjacent neighbourhoods; and,
  • prioritizing the Vision for NKT to create a pedestrian-oriented environment and a multi-modal transportation network.

The City should also consult the public health unit about health impacts as part of the review and analysis of the proposed road extension. The study will ultimately consider alternatives to the WSE, including maintaining the right-of-way as a multi-use path as suggested by members of the community.”

YES! We will have to keep watching and providing input in the next phase, so that the ultimate product, which will guide the future of this part of Kingston, fulfils this promise. 

Speaking of input, community feedback is incorporated extensively within this version of the report, and the full summaries of the public consultations are included in Appendix A, providing a permanent record. But we would have liked to know what some of the other “stakeholders [who] contributed their perspective” said. Maybe in the next phase we will get something like Appendix B:  Consultations with Land Owners, Developers and Real Estate Professionals. Full transparency is very important. 

 — Mary McCollam

A Sampling of Other Changes:

The report now acknowledges that the decision to undertake a secondary planning process for North King’s Town was due not only to the age of planning studies, but due to community concern over the proposed Wellington Street Extension. As well, it states accurately that a majority of the public who provided comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the WSE, whereas the first draft only stated that opinions varied, with some opposed and some in favour.

The new Executive Summary includes the following: “With respect to DRF Park, many people would like the park to remain as it is. They want to protect the urban wilderness that exists along the shoreline, and they do not want the proposed WSE running through it or next to it … The K&P trail was generally noted as a positive addition to NKT’s open space network, but some people expressed concern that it would be negatively impacted by the proposed WSE.”

Vision

Before revision (p. 51)

“…home to walkable neighbourhoods, with strong connections to jobs, and amenities, so families can grow, thrive and age in place.”

After revision (p. 61)

“…home to walkable neighbourhoods, with strong connections to jobs, amenities, open spaces, the waterfront and neighbouring communities, so residents from a variety of backgrounds and income levels can grow, thrive and age in place.”

Maps

Before revision (pp. 54, 75, 77), the maps showed a dotted line with question marks and the legend “Potential Wellington Street Extension:  subject to further study during next phase…”

After revision (pp. 64, 91, 95), the legend reads “Former rail right-of-way:  proposed WSE or multi-use trail (subject to further study during next phase…)”

Natural Heritage

Before revision (p. 66)

“Develop a conservation strategy for natural heritage resources … that sets out mitigation measures where natural areas may be redeveloped.”

After revision (pp. 76-77)

“Develop a conservation strategy for natural heritage resources … that sets out mitigation measures where natural areas may be redeveloped, such that natural heritage features and areas are protected.”

Inner Harbour

Before revision (p. 73)

“There is some potential for higher density development along the waterfront.”

After revision (p. 88)

“There is some potential for higher density development within a short walking distance of the waterfront, with the waterfront protected for ecological functions, wildlife and public access. Land use compatibility and protection of the waterfront, including the area’s ecological function, will be necessary and will be reflected in the policy framework established by the secondary plan.”

Outer Station

Before revision (p. 84)  

The report stated that a developer had proposed relocating the stone structure of the Outer Station, a designated heritage property, to Doug Fluhrer Park and stated that the City should continue to work with the developer.

After revision (pp. 103, 104)

The report gives far more information, including that now the application to the federal government is to relocate the property instead to 2 Cataraqui St, north of Doug Fluhrer Park, and that the majority of people in the community wish to see the Outer Station redeveloped and re-purposed in its existing location.

Bailey Broom Bylaw: Confusion at Council

WellingtonX has had a lull in our interactions with City Hall as we’ve been waiting for the revised draft of the NKT report: recently, however, there was a little flurry of excitement over the request from Engineering that council pass a bylaw to designate a small strip of land beside Cataraqui Street and the former Bailey Broom factory as Highway. (Here ‘highway’ just means public road.)

The broom factory was recently sold to RAW Design Ltd. of Toronto, but the City of Kingston withheld a slender wedge of the property in order to conserve it for the possible widening of Cataraqui Street. They also kept aside a “sight triangle” that would accommodate a right turn onto Cataraqui from the proposed Wellington Street extension. (See the shaded piece in the image below that looks like half a golf tee on its side. 305 is the broom factory building.)

Unknown

Because the municipality owned that parcel of land in 2014, before Council directed that no more land be acquired for the Wellington Street extension until the secondary planning process is completed, the City’s ownership of this piece of land did not contravene the motion passed in March 2015. After the reading of the bylaw was deferred twice from previous council meetings, it was withdrawn altogether on Tuesday evening. Councillor Hutchison moved for withdrawal, in order to return at a later date with a motion of direction for staff to reconfigure Part 3 (as the piece of land is known on the reference plan) to separate the potential sight triangle. Hutchison said his primary concern was the public perception that the City might be facilitating the construction of the WSE while the secondary planning process is underway.

Staff have said that the bylaw is nothing more than a necessary piece of “housekeeping” associated with the future redevelopment of the broom factory and the necessity that services for that building come from Cataraqui St. However, we are not quite sure why it is necessary. And we are puzzled at the timing: why has this come forward now? RAW purchased the land last fall. As yet, they have not submitted a development application. The response from staff to a question from Councillor Boehme was that there would be no immediate implications for the new owners of the broom factory if the bylaw wasn’t passed that evening.

After considerable head scratching and discussion, Wellington X’s position is that if the bylaw would create extra cost or hassle if delayed, and if it is merely a land use and development requirement to allow the building’s new owner to establish access and services from Cataraqui Street, and if it has nothing to do with advancing the Wellington St. Extension, there is no harm going ahead with it. However, it is indicative of our strained relationship with the City’s Engineering department that we are indeed suspicious of their every move.

— Anne Lougheed

The People Speak

WellingtonX was cc’d on at least 65 letters to the Planning Department concerning the Draft Visioning Report for the North King’s Town Secondary Plan, Phase One. The neighbourhood must be rich indeed to draw forth such eloquence and insight. We hope some of your vision makes its way into the final draft of the Visioning Report. Here are excerpts from what you wrote.

At the meeting that I attended, and at the music festival  (and even in the photos included in the report) one of the key words that people were using as a principle to guide any changes to the waterfront was “wild.” I don’t see this principle elaborated in the report. While improved access to the waterfront is important — it should not come at the cost of the unique urban wildness along the shores of the river. By using the term ‘wild,’ I think that people were trying to communicate a desire for absolutely minimal interference with natural shorelines — as opposed to the kind of  ‘parkified’ green spaces that are designed for humans rather than plants and animals.

The opposition [to the WSE] makes sense given the strong support expressed for preservation of the natural heritage of North King’s Town. However  it seems to me that this position was not clearly reflected in the Draft Report. I draw your attention to the section about the Wellington Street Extension on Page 21- it sounds like there was equal support for a variety of positions, but that is not the case. I suggest that this be edited to reflect widespread opposition to the Extension.

I was unable to come to yesterday’s meeting, but I have reviewed the recently released draft North King’s Town Visioning Report and I participated in some of the activities that form its basis. It is my observation that this draft does not adequately reflect the repeatedly and clearly expressed desires of the public to emphasize protection of the natural features along the waterfront and to NOT build the Wellington Street Extension.

I’ve attended numerous events at Doug Fluhrer Park and appreciate that its location is critical to the growing vitality of the area.  I also know the importance of Belle Park and of Belle Island (where my kids went to day camp).  Protecting and improving our waterfront and waterfront area parks for full use as parks for walking, cycling, community events or just being with each other and nature without being dissected by a full street should be a high priority or those other activities aren’t likely to be enjoyed. My understanding is that this same message has been what the public has communicated almost exclusively to the consultants.

It is great that the city hired consultants to complete a North King’s Town visioning study and report which recognized the importance of walking and cycling in the area, but I was very disappointed that the draft report does not reflect the strong neighbourhood opposition to the Wellington Street Extension.  In all of the meetings I attended, this is what was said again and again: “No Wellington Street Extension!”

I would like to suggest a symbolic change be made on page 6. This is where the list of Community Stakeholders appears and I was struck by the fact that it begins like this: “Landowners • Developers •    Land development professionals •    Real estate brokers •    Property owners…” Not until the middle of the list do we see “Residents of North King’s Town” and “Indigenous Community Stakeholders”. And nowhere does it list Residents of Kingston. Now perhaps the list was just randomly generated, or perhaps it reflects the numbers of submissions from these groups? Or does it unintentionally reflect the priority we tend to give to these voices? (Landowners and developers topping the list)  I suggest that this list be rewritten so that the City’s report puts the voices of the people who live here front and centre.

I attended various public consultations and most of what was said was that people opposed the WSE.  Yet again, developers and business owners were not present at these meetings. This is an ongoing challenge and reproduces the notion that certain people with power get a back door to city hall and never have to publicly disclose their interests. A transparent consultation has been a concern for many residents. It would strengthen the public’s relationship with the city for the Planning Department and Dialog to disclose who you spoke to and the data gleaned from these consultations.

The vision statement included in this report does not emphasize that our neighbourhoods should be a place for current and future residents and people of all incomes. It seems too focused on the economy and not enough on residents’ quality of life.

The vision for North Kingston should cross-reference other city policies such as the  Sustainability Plan, the Culture Plan, the emerging youth employment strategy, and so on — and it should state that — if need is demonstrated for them — alternatives to the WSE need to be found.

Some critics may dismiss aspects of the Visioning Report as idealistic. I think that that is wrong, and that the North King’s Town area presents enormous opportunities. In particular, Montreal Street is at the centre of this area, and as a result holds the most potential. Take, for example, the stretch of Montreal Street between Russell and Rideau Streets. There are a number of empty lots, some unused or under-used industrial buildings, and the occasional industrial, commercial or residential building. But this stretch is only a twenty minute walk to downtown! That’s the length of walk (shorter on bike) I make to and from work every day, so I know that it is feasible to imagine this stretch of Montreal Street closely connected with downtown Kingston.

If you’re going to keep the language of “big moves,” I would like to see a “big move” that would value and acknowledge and build on both built and intangible heritage. This would allow us to think more holistically about Belle Island and Belle Park, about the Outer Station, about Fluhrer Park, for example, and about ordinary streetscapes and recreational spaces around the neighbourhood – all of them with historical and social meaning, and generations of human activity and social relations that should not be lightly changed, developed, or moved.

Almost all the maps in the document show the third crossing as if it were in place. This is disingenuous because it serves to promote and legitimize a huge public works project that has not been approved by City Council. Acting as if the third crossing is real influences the decision about the Wellington Street Extension. The two projects are linked, and implying that one (the bridge) is going to be built, adds weight to the pro-Wellington Extension arguments, undermining the report’s supposed ‘neutrality’ on the issue.

I am not against development in principle. I want a safe and economically viable neighbourhood like everyone else. But I’ve grown very fond of this area and I take exception whenever I hear it referred to as nothing more than a “corridor.”

Also, moving the Outer Station seems like a ridiculous idea that would send a message that the City would prefer to appease developers’ interests rather than invest in protecting its own heritage resources, as it claims is a priority in this draft plan.

My travel requires choices.  Sometimes I make the wrong one and end up sitting in a Kingston “traffic jam” for 5 or ten minutes. Usually I’m able to make a choice that gets me home without delays.

As a car driver I know that my right to travel more quickly by car into more areas of the city ranks far below local residents rights to healthy quality of life. I also know that the health of this world-class ecosystem is more important than automotive convenience. As someone who uses the K&P trail for biking and walking I want more incentives to park my car in the outskirts of the city and access the downtown through a physically active, less polluting, and more responsible way.

I appeal to you, and your department to work with Dialog to address the many components of this report and subsequent decisions around this project to better embody waterfront and parkland protection, environmental sustainability, a strong focus on active transportation, and the preservation of cultural heritage character.

If the WSE were to be built, it could not be undone. We need to do our utmost to protect green space, our climate, and natural/recreational opportunities for future Kingstonians, not invest precious resources into something with no evidence of benefit, no public support, and very grave possible consequences. I believe the plan should reflect this spirit of careful stewardship for North King’s Town and its future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Keep our valuable waterfront quiet, with no roads”

map_wse_davistannery_wellingtonmidblockYou may have attended or received notice of one of the nine consultation sessions associated with the Community Visioning Exercise and Preliminary Market Analysis to launch the North King’s Town Secondary Plan.

This was an ambitious and wide-ranging consultation. Probably about 1000 Kingstonians took part in the consultations. DIALOG consultants were present at three of the consultations and city staff were at all of them.

You may be wondering what the community said at these meetings, or whether records were kept of what they said.

Happily, the summaries of the consultations have been posted on the city website.

There were valuable, wide-ranging comments from the public on social, business, cultural and environmental issues, and many specific suggestions for the area. On issues especially related to the WSE (Douglas Fluhrer Park, waterfront and wildlife, parks, roads, transit, trails and bike paths), comments in all nine of the consultations were in favour of:

  • more and better transit
  • more walkability and biking, including to work
  • more bike paths, trails and sidewalks
  • the K&P trail a bike/walk green corridor not next to roads
  • fewer cars; less reliance on cars
  • improving existing roads
  • renovating the Outer Station at its current location rather than moving it to Douglas Fluhrer Park
  • quiet waterfront parks with no roads next to them
  • increasing and preserving community green space and public waterfront, including the wild feel of the waterfront
  • protection of wildlife, nature, the land and the water
  • quiet, natural, safe walking paths and bike paths through green space.

No comments opposed any of these.

Many people spoke specifically about the Wellington Street Extension. ALL of the comments summarized in 8 of the 9 consultations were against the Wellington Street Extension; there were ZERO comments in favour.

The one consultation with comments in favour of the WSE was the “Old Industrial Area Visits to Businesses, Social Service Providers and Residents,” for which, unfortunately, city staff did not record the number of people consulted. Rationales given for the WSE in that consultation were to bring more people through the Old Industrial Area and increase property values, to take traffic off of other streets and to provide an access other than Montreal Street for the area. While these goals may be important, they could clearly be met in other, less damaging ways.

It is clear that Kingstonians want a greener, less car-oriented city and no Wellington Street Extension. We await DIALOG’s report and hope that it reflects the feedback they have documented. City staff and Council, please listen and only implement plans that fit that vision!

– Mary McCollam

A sampling of the comments from the public:

  • Keep our valuable waterfront quiet, with no roads.
  • Waterfront should be for everyone, including wildlife.
  • Keep the “wild” feel of the waterfront.
  • Put in a bike/walk green corridor instead of a road.
  • More people will use the K&P trail if they are walking and biking among trees instead of cars.
  • Don’t put trails next to roads.
  • Replant lilacs along the K&P Trail.
  • It would be nice to go for a walk at lunch, but there’s nowhere nice to walk in the Old Industrial Area.
  • Keep the Outer Station where it is – it belongs there. Make it a community hub.
  • It should be easy to walk to work within NKT.
  • I’d like to cycle to work.
  • Improve transit to lessen commuter reliance.
  • The vision should state that alternatives to the WSE need to be found.