Monthly Archives: November 2015

It came to pass but didn’t

Jason here, well, it did not pass. It needed 2/3 .or nine votes to be reconsidered after Councillor Stroud who voted with the majority the first time around, changed his mind- or his constituents changed it for him. (We are talking about the reconsideration of the new high school on the Memorial Centre property)The subject of much press- print and otherwise. Perhaps now all this energy will be put into the near campus neighbourhood committee however long it can continue. (It has been declared (dysfunctional by staff) The committees will be considered on the Dec 1st meeting. This was at the end of the meeting. Bear with me while I take you through the whole meeting. We were first addressed by presentations- only five minutes, but much longer with questions.  Frank Dixon with a well thought out alternative to the Wellington Street extension later on was Ms Dowling  of the prison farms. Ms Dowling has changed her approach. It is no longer just about cows but about food-local food and the farm land therefore should be protected. This is similar to the petition presented by Councillor Hutchison in that it was about the grass roots and what they are concerned about- in Councillor Hutchison’s case it was about the height of the proposed building on the Capital theatre site downtown. Then we were talked at about Green House gases by Mr. Mabee and the Kingston Transportation Master Plan (KTMP) it would appear that Aecon did the original plan and also the mandated ( by the province) update.  There was no shortage of criticism for this mistake. Perhaps the RFP process is at fault. Councillors supported the mayor’s amendment to the KTMP which called for more aggressive targets on transit ridership. There was a feeling among Councillors that KTMP was still flawed hence two motions for deferral- one to the next Council meeting and a subsequent one until staff could find a way forward, through a meeting with Councillors The KTMP was critiqued by one of the presenters  Preston Schiller whom I gather is an academic. Neill asked how he (Schiller) would grade KTMP? I gather from Schiller’s response that he would not give it a high mark. Perhaps that is because profs like their own interpretation of events fed back to them! Also presenters- two ex- militaries who said that they were NOT opposed, contrary to popular belief, to a High School on the Memorial Centre site.”

1160-1674 Sydenham Rd was finally passed. Councillor Allen voted against it, having discussed it in csmera and at the other meeting in November. However it was ‘bumped up ‘to Planning Committee to make sure that Tomlinson does what has been suggested for the site.  The site is an existing industrial site in a residential area. (in Councillor Allen’s Ward).

Also passed was the Rideau Heights regeneration plan. Jason wonders if the Heights can ever overcome the prejudices that exist re the Heights if the density is greater- as the plan suggests- the density has been doubled. This is what you get when the consultant is from out of town, well-intentioned but wrong.

Yes, it was a long meeting. Perhaps the first to need an extension past 11 o’clock.

 

 

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Kingston Electors

November 5, 2015– The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hello All:

I’m a new voice on this Blog and my name is Karen Pagratis. I’ll be reporting on the Planning Committee meetings of Kingston City Council. ‘Cause planning is where it’s at, at least in this decade, in this great and growing city of Kingston.

The Planning Committee consists of 6 City Councillors, one of whom acts as Chair. Unlike many other municipal committees it includes no members of the general public. However its meetings are open to the public to observe and address. Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of the month in Council Chambers commencing at 6:30 pm.

The current Planning Committee consists of Councillors: Kevin George (Vice-Chair), Jeff McLaren, Jim Neill, Lisa Osanic, Laura Turner and Liz Schell who is Chair of the group. With the exception of Councillors McLaren and Turner, this is a seasoned group. They are all at least in their 3rd term as City Councillors and have all sat and continue to sit on a variety of committees. Councillor Liz Schell is a dignified and soft spoken Chairperson who seems able to maintain a congenial atmosphere, at least so far.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Tonight’s meeting was a monster with not only the usual public meeting consisting of by-law amendment requests, but also the much anticipated 2nd draft presentation of the City’s “Official Plan”. Why the two would be combined is anyone’s guess, but it drew a huge crowd.

The owner of 84 Centre St., a residential semi, asked for a permit to build a secondary suite in his basement, a request very much consistent with the City’s urban intensification plan. Apparently the only one to have a problem with it was the neighbour who wanted to insist, among other things, that the owner add in 3 inches of sound insulation all the way up and down the connecting wall. The owner gave quite a clever response to this demand by insisting that he would be happy to do so if the neighbour did likewise on his side in order that all possible noise is muffled on either side.

Next came bigger fish, that of the creation of a new project area at 700 Gardiners Rd. (Which by the way is not on Gardiners Rd., but rather east of it and south of Taylor Kidd.) We are talking about the 40 hectare development planned behind the Rio Can Centre. The Developer here is Tamarack Homes owned by the Taggart Family, who speak through the planners at Fotenn Construction. They plan to provide a range of land uses, consisting of a mixture of housing options, “improve” traffic and parking patterns (although currently there exists neither traffic or parking to improve), provide social and recreational facilities and address brownfields. The last point is the most immediately significant as they wish to extend eligibility in order to apply for brownfield remediation funding. That is to say they want tax assistance to address any ground contamination which may currently exist. The property was formerly owned by Northern Telecom and later housed a cable factory which resulted in some chemical use.

Interestingly, Michelle Taggart addressed the committee herself later during the Official Plan presentation to request that the Plan be altered to accommodate an 18 metre road cross section rather than the existing 20 meter width. Also she would like to see the City abandon the sidewalk boulevard requirement, (that strip of land between between the street and the sidewalk) and have the sidewalks run directly adjacent to the street. There’s method here and in both cases it results in savings to the builder. Narrower streets obviously mean more houses and no sidewalk boulevards mean that short front yards can be made to appear longer, even though the buyer doesn’t own all of it. This is a builder who looks to the minute to increase profits and thus bears just as much watching as those who would construct a monolith with zero lot line in one brash move.

Finally, on to the real reason most people attended last night’s meeting, the latest update of the Official Plan. We are given some background by Rory Baksh, a planner with Dillon Consulting, hired by the City. In accordance with provincial legislation all municipalities must update their Official Plans every 5 years and must follow a specified process to do so. Public input is not only welcome, but required and every form of social media has been incorporated to aid in the “robust public consultation process”. Thus we have a new and very young face as Director of Planning blogging with stakeholders and holding “coffee mornings” and open house events. Personally I think that this is an innovative and healthy exercise for both the public and City Hall if, and only if, public opinion is truly and fully taken into account in the formulation of policies.

The Councillors had a few pointed questions. Councillor Osanic questioned the removal of specific measurements regarding “The Ribbon of Life” or buffer lands and why there appeared to be a softening of language regarding setbacks from bodies of water. This concern was echoed time and again by members of the public a little later. The official answer seemed to be that specific numbers in terms of measurement had been moved to another section of the report and that some exceptions were incorporated in the wording to cover existing lots/ houses that may be too close to the current water line.

Councillor Neill was concerned with the transparency of the Official Plan process and asked why there had only been one public meeting at the beginning of the process, particularly as other municipalities apparently have many more in their processes. The staff answered that is all that is required by provincial Act, but they may recommend another if Planning or Council directs them to do so. Two hours and much public commentary later, Neill asked the same question again and this time the Commissioner, Lanie Hurdle stepped in to assure those present that another public meeting would indeed be held.

Councillor George asked some very circuitous questions regarding transportation and residential intensification which seemed to boil down to cars may continue to go unrestrictedly through the city and secondary suites in “stable” areas are encouraged. You might recall that this councillor has had some very contentious and well publicized issues with some of his district residents regarding rental units within their subdivisions.

Councillor McLaren rode his usual hobby horse (but briefly) of cost/benefit analysis, insisting that growth should pay for itself. Not a misplaced sentiment by any means. He went on to insist that the term “new development” must be removed from the wording and that cost/benefit analysis should be performed on all development. Presumably he’s not asking for staff to evaluate that which has already been developed, or is he?

Councillor Rob Hutchison who is not a member of the Planning Committee, but dropped in, made a plea for a Secondary Planning Process regarding Greenfields (new, undeveloped areas) to be included in the Plan. Then somewhat oddly, he went on to call for a prohibition of cul de sacs, as they were a waste of valuable residential land and that a straightforward grid method was much preferred. (Let’s hope the good councillor doesn’t decide to become an urban planner, or we might be in for a spate of Soviet-style architecture.)

Next came what Jim Neill aptly called “Homecoming”, with a number of former city councillors coming to the microphone to express their concerns. Floyd Patterson wanted to know what would become of the Kingston Penitentiary lands, if the Wellington St. extension was tied to the Third Crossing and whether the Official Plan will protect the Inner Harbour as a natural greenspace. George Sutherland was very concerned about the expansion of an open pit mine off Hwy #15 and also wanted prison farms to be reinstated. Vicki Schmolka, who by her own count was the 27th commentator, wanted the language of the Plan tightened, because as she quite rightfully pointed out, it’s rather worrisome when a developer’s agent says that if the language is too hard, we’ll all find ourselves in front of the OMB more often. (This is in fact precisely what Mike Kean, the land use planner with Fotenn for Tamarack predicted.) Ms. Schmolka went on to give an impassioned appeal to the citizenry of Kingston to realize that this was “a chance for us to determine what kind of city we want to be”. For more on her urban vision see her Letter to the Editor of the Whig Standard published about a week previously.

Questions and commentary from members of the general public touched on a vast variety of issues, but most often focussed on greenspace, heritage protection, and sight-line preservation. Former Kingston Municipal Planner, Rob Fonger, stated that development standards must be more specific, especially in regard to areas to be densified and downtown height restrictions. On the subject of height restrictions, Giselle Pharand, who managed to secure over 100 signatures within 36 hours on a petition, asserted that no building in the downtown core including the North Block and the Capitol Theatre proposals should be allowed to build higher than 8 to 10 stories. She wants it specified in the Official Plan and she wants to see it enforced! Christine Sypnowych, president of the Barriefield Village Association, spoke eloquently at length about built heritage preservation, the importance of greenspace and buffer zones and to be wary of unsympathetic developers. (This is of course a very timely issue for Barriefield as the builder Patry (of Princess St. development in Williamsville fame) has bought the old school immediately adjacent to the village and is very busy trying to determine just how many units he can possibly squeeze in to every available metre in all directions, up, down and sideways.)

On and on the wish list goes, from Save our Farms to requests for more designated bicycle parking, to a concern that cars not be banned. What was most significant in the whole process was resident’s involvement. Almost everyone who spoke cared deeply about what their city looked like, and perhaps more importantly, felt like. Engagement is what City Hall asked for and it’s certainly what they got, and I suspect, will continue to get as we move forward to the 3rd Draft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning is where it is at

September 17, 2015

Hello All

I’m a new voice on this Blog and my name is Karen. I’ll be reporting on the Planning Committee meetings of Kingston City Council. ‘Cause planning is where it’s at, at least in this decade, in this great and growing city of Kingston.

The Planning Committee consists of 6 City Councillors, one of whom acts as Chair. Unlike many other municipal committees it includes no members of the general public. However its meetings are open to the public to observe and address. Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of the month in Council Chambers commencing at 6:30 pm.

The current Planning Committee consists of Councillors: Kevin George (Vice-Chair), Jeff McLaren, Jim Neill, Lisa Osanic, Laura Turner and Liz Schell who is Chair of the group. With the exception of Councillors McLaren and Turner, this is a seasoned group. They are all at least in their 3rd term as City Councillors and have all sat and continue to sit on a variety of committees. Councillor Liz Schell is a dignified and soft spoken Chairperson who seems able to maintain a congenial atmosphere, at least so far.

It was a short and largely uncontested meeting last night.

First we see an application for a zoning By-Law Amendment in the ongoing plan for commercial and residential development on Gardiners Rd. by Clermont Investments. The purpose of which is to “facilitate future severances and a condominium on the property”. This was pretty standard stuff for the Planning Department and the Planning Committee and given the location, doesn’t seem to be a cause for concern on anyone’s part. Only Councillor McLaren had a question, as to why the original bylaw had not provided for severance to which the staff really had no specific answer, other than the amendment now will allow the condo units to be sold individually. Since as the applicant claimed, the proposed amendment did indeed appear consistent with the City Plan for development, the motion was passed unanimously.

Next we have a rather more exotic by-law amendment application, that of Cruikshank Properties Corp, presented by John Uliani of IBI Group in regard to 2185 and 2215 Perth Rd. Exotic, because the owners wish to “remove the quarry designation on the property…to permit the construction of a single dwelling” while maintaining the quarry itself as a kind of waterfront for themselves. In addition there is to be a future commercial component to the request in potentially allowing, among other things, riding stable, industrial repair shop, warehouse, retail sales etc. Councillor Neill asked the question that must have been on many minds, what is the future intended use here? Are estate lots in the offing? Nevertheless the amendment passed unanimously and John Uliani who is a planner with many years’ experience, particularly at Kingston City Hall was congratulated by the Committee Chair on his upcoming retirement to Victoria, B.C. Mr. Uliani who has been known to be a tough negotiator on his clients’ behalf assured the committee that they would see him a few more times yet, and that he was only leaving Kingston for B.C. because all his kids and grandkids were there. It was a warm and fuzzy moment for the Planning Committee.

It was also worth noting that Councillor Richard Allen sat in the public seats for a short while, presumably to discover what was to be decided on amendments pertaining to his district, Countryside.

 

On to more controversial topics. Secondary suites seem to be the new “great idea, but not in my neighbourhood” issue of urban intensification dominating this decade. Councillor George had to absent himself from the room and the vote, due to “perceived” conflicts of interest, given that he does work for some of the builders who install secondary suites and who build in the area under question.

 

The sought after Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision concerns 1350 Woodfield Cres. in the area of Westbrook. “The applicant is requesting permission to develop a subdivision with 304 single detached dwellings units, 76 semi-detached dwelling units…” in an area that is currently designated as residential and environmentally protected. There were a number of issues here raised by Councillors Osanic, McLaren, and Neill. Staffs were asked if there is a tree preservation plan and fencing at the end of each house lot to protect those trees. Apparently not, the current woodlot will stay within the subdivision housing lots, rather than the usual practice of transferring to the City as part of its 5% parkland requirement. Next Councillor Osanic pointed out that one the proposed major streets is exceptionally long, straight and potentially dangerous and asked if firstly there would be a traffic calming strategy put into effect, to which the staff answered yes, and secondly would a culvert be constructed under this same street to help with water drainage and wildlife movements to which the staff answered that this level of detail had yet to be addressed. Along the same lines Councillor McLaren asked if consideration to native species in the woodlot area had been given, again the answer was that this was too detailed a question for now. And then we come to the hardball question, the cost of suburban infrastructure. Both Councillors McLaren and Neill asked whether the taxes gained from the proposed housing will cover the increased expenses. Staffs answer: “Hard to say”. Councillor Neill went on to comment that he would support the motion but with the caveat that there be presented a breakdown in fees vs. proposed property tax income. Councillor Turner on the other hand was strongly in favour of the motion which would create growth and is consistent with Kingston’s “open for business image”. The amendment passed with 3 for and 2 against.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to report on the Oct. 1st Planning Committee Meeting, but please join me again for a report on October 15th’s meeting.

Thank you for your interest. It’s your city and your votes make all the difference. Bye for now, Karen.

 

Defer Defer Defer

Jason here. Last night’ Council meeting was all about ‘planning matters’ all other items of interest being deferred (including the Transportation Master Plan- (the staff person was unable to attend)

First we heard from the owner of the property at 218 Green Bay Rd on how much it was going to cost him to renovate the building in Barriefield (where else!). Then we heard from the President of the Barriefield Village Heritage group who told us why the building should not be torn down (most of the houses on Green Bay Road appear to be new and BIG.) Council voted to go with the heritage committee which went against the staff report that said that the building should be demolished. Toward the end of the meeting Councillor Allen asked for a reconsideration of the vote that had occurred on 218 Green Bay Rd because the staff report appeared not to have asked for a Heritage Easement. Staff replied that the owner had not asked for an easement even though they were asked if they wanted one. Apparently such a reconsideration at the same meeting, does not need 2/3, only a majority of Councillors- this caused a ruffle among those who determine voting protocol. In the end the Councillors voted the same way- in spite of the reconsideration or- perhaps because of it. The option is now with the owners of ask for a Heritage Easement which could restrict the type of house he could ask for. This is an interesting question that will occur again and again. Hopefully, the Sydenham Ward Heritage District won’t cause as much stress.

Next up was the question of ‘ secondary suites’ When is a duplex a duplex? When it’s more than a secondary suite- or more than 40% . A secondary suite is only 40 % of the area of the main building- a duplex can be equal in size. Hence the building in Westbrook which has servicing constraints- (sewer)-should be withdrawn from the secondary suite area…it should be in closed session. While Jason agrees that it should be in closed session, it will be hard to overcome the motion of Boehme and McLaren that deferred further discussion of the problem area until the next Council meeting. This is a problem area because it is an industrial area above 401and not below 401 where all the industrial areas are now. As Councillor Allen said, this is the area of the highest residential density in his Ward. No one (with the exception of Councillor George) knows how the zoning got the way it has. It appears to be Institutional but allows Industrial uses.

It would appear to Jason that an inordinate amount of time is being spent on Heritage issues.

Where is Glover when you need him?