November 19, 2015– The Greening of the Brown
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 its 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 it’s 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.
The Greening of the Brown
Tonight’s meeting was brief and to the point, in fact two of the councillors weren’t even in attendance. The usual public meeting consisting of by-law amendment requests took place without much to report, except for one possible anomaly. Then we had a succinct update on Brownfield Administration.
The small subdivision (5 houses) at 530 Maple Lawn Dr., (north of the 401, just east of Battersea) by-law amendment requests were passed, after some pertinent questioning, quickly and unanimously as were some minor requests for 809 and 829 Development Drive.
Its interesting to note that although Councillor Richard Allen does not sit on the Planning Committee, he is often to be seen observing the proceedings when issues concerning Countryside District arise, such as this evening with regard to Maple Lawn Dr. The same cannot be said for some other councillors who seem to be more than happy to allow city staff to deal with any pesky planning questions that may arise in their districts. For instance the zoning amendment request which passed the most quickly, and completely, without challenge or question, was that of the proposed Shoppers Drug Mart to be erected on a residential corner in the District of Pittsburgh. Not only was the councillor not in attendance, but this rather large, and presumably important issue was not even been “bumped up” to the Planning Committee for discussion. Apparently there are no residents of Pittsburgh who have an issue with a large box-style drug/convenience store being located on the corner of Grenadier and Hwy 15. It’s surprising that not even those on Windfield Cres., the immediate neighbours behind the building, have any questions, not to mention misgivings, concerning traffic, noise, parking or light pollution. Moreover this location is just across the street from where the new east side Community Centre is to be built, right beside LaSalle Secondary School. Without Planning Committee review and the forum it provides for residents to state their concerns, this zoning by-law will move right along to City Council for all three readings without a challenge. Curious.
Kingston’s Brownfield Community Improvement Plan (CIP) has been in effect since 2005 and has recently been amended to include one additional project area, the Williamsville corridor. The principle objective of this program “is to provide tax based incentives for brownfield properties so that a level playing field is created in comparison to greenfield development opportunities”. In 2014 the City adopted a sliding scale approach in determining the level of financial benefit that any given brownfield project might be entitled to. Thus, properties with profound amounts of contamination would remain eligible for full benefits, while properties with lesser degrees of environmental encumbrance would receive proportionally lesser amounts of municipal benefit.
Paul MacLatchy, Kingston’s Director of Environment & Sustainable Initiatives, reported that Kingston’s Brownfield plan has been a success on a number of scales. Of course formerly vacant or under-utilized land has been redeveloped into industrial/commercial space, residential units and additional waterfront property, but it has also created new full time job equivalents and increased long-term annual property tax revenues of approximately $3 million per year. All at an average rebate cost of approximately $1.35 million per project. (These figures consider the 8 projects which have been approved so far, and the 4 projects pending approval.) In addition the sliding scale approach has been applied to 2 new proposed projects in Williamsville, “to ensure that the level of municipal tax benefit … was consistent with the actual environmental liabilities requiring remediation”. This certainly sounds like a win/win for all concerned, and kudos to the City.