Monthly Archives: February 2016

Five Hours and Two Towers

February 18, 2016 — Five Hours and Two Towers

Hello All:

My name is Karen Pagratis and I report 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. Currently: Liz Schell (Chair), Jim Neill (Vice-Chair), Richard Allen, Jeff McLaren, Lisa Osanic, Laura Turner.

Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of the month in Council Chambers commencing at 6:30 pm. and are open to the public to observe and address.

Five Hours and Two Towers

Not only were all the Councillors in attendance, and many municipal employee luminaries, but it felt as if half of the downtown was there as well. Now why they try to combine a regular planning meeting with a special meeting is beyond me. Unless City Hall is trying to set an endurance test for its citizens.

The regular meeting took over 45 minutes, and was about fairly minor amendments required to create secondary suites for two residences and the renovation of the “Queens’ Day Care” at 169 Union St. into a Dental office with two apartments above. All three passed unanimously and probably should have been deferred to another time, given the tremendous public interest and time required for the Homestead proposal which followed.

The first thing that strikes one about the developers’ presentation was that the designers and architects were given as much time (in this case 50 minutes) as they required to put forward their case for major zoning and Official Plan amendments. Whereas members of the public, those who were both for and against, were given 5 minutes each in which to express their views and concerns. This is normal practice at City Hall, although it does seem rather unfair. One could question why those with an opposing viewpoint wouldn’t have an equal time slot in which to make a cohesive presentation.

As we all know by now, the applicant, Homestead Land Holdings Limited, is proposing to develop two 21 storey buildings, resulting in a total of 380 residential units, (in addition to a parking garage whose spots will be sold back to the City at a cost of $68,000. each) along Queen St and Ontario St. in the downtown core. Essentially there are two major sticking points to the proposal. First the height, because currently the Official Plan makes provision for building heights not to exceed 25.5 metres (8 to 9 storeys). Secondly is location (which again refers back to height) as these buildings would sit on the inner edge of a heritage district thereby dwarfing all buildings near them, and would irrevocably alter the street scape.

After repeated assertions and assurances from the architects that the proposed buildings are not only beautiful, but will incorporate many “heritage details” to make them fit in, and that “the pedestrian experience will be enhanced” and the “impact on surrounding heritage properties is very limited”, they insisted that the proposal “represents good planning and is in the public interest”   You’d expect that a designer would consider his plans to be good, and indeed from seeing the sketches the buildings appear reasonably attractive. However when Councillor McLaren asked City Staff for “the rational for those heights?” no one had an answer, but they assured him that they “could get that”. Herein lays the crux of the matter. Why won’t 8 or 9 or even 10 storeys do? Because as a builder, the higher you go the greater the profit. We all understand that. (Although interestingly enough, Jay Patry who suddenly came out in defence of Homestead’s plans, thought he should explain it to us and proceeded to do so himself. So in the near future expect to see some monolithic plans proposed for the beleaguered Marine Museum site which he recently purchased.)

During the following three hours we heard from representatives of organizations, residents and business people, 28 people in all. Almost all were truly engaged and concerned, one way or the other. Downtown business owners seemed to be the most supportive of the Homestead proposal. The shared belief being that “this project will keep our downtown more vibrant. We want people downtown to live, work and play. It just makes good business sense.” Although Ed Smith, president of the Downtown Business Association, clearly stated that “internet shopping has increased significantly…and the anchor stores are not coming back”, he still considered that “these buildings are totally appropriate.” Does this not beg the question as to why? Going back to an earlier question posed to staff by, again, Councillor McLaren: “Will this mixed use building create need by simply existing?… Is it a build it, they will come, kind of scenario?” There were also a few residents who liked high rises because they said that they were “safer” and “more energy efficient”.

On the other side were a mixture of heritage advocates, academics, history buffs, former city councillors and affordable housing advocates. Jennifer McKendry, a well-known historical architect, stated that “the key to the problem is scale”. Also that “economic viability can be achieved with 8 or 9 storeys and there’s no objection to the design, if it were somewhere else. Similarly Ed Grenda, president of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation said that “we have a unique street scape and skyline” and “Intensification is not the only justification for ignoring heritage goals.”   There were other speakers, notably from Coalition Kingston Communities who pointed out the impact of sun shading from the proposed height of these buildings, restricted views, lack of amenity space and again the lack of “human scale”. In addition there were residents who simply wanted to maintain a section of “old Kingston” in the same way that Montreal has its old city. In the words of one speaker, no one comes to Kingston for high rises, “if you want to see those, go to Mississauga”.

Profit is by no means a shameful thing.   Equally, development is necessary and change is mandatory to keep a society from stagnating. The question is the degree, where does the golden mean lie?   Everyone wishes to see those empty spaces of the North Block revitalized and most, if not all, want to enjoy a vibrant downtown. But will the construction of residential buildings alone do that? There need to be employment opportunities for those residents to fill in order that they can pay the property taxes and afford to avail themselves of the shopping and restaurants and other services downtown.   Perhaps a new Request for Proposals should go out from City Hall asking for developers to submit plans more in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Official Plan, rather than seeking permission to abandon it? Perhaps we can do better than high rises in a heritage district, here in the place “where history and innovation thrive”?

Green House Gases

Jason here. Well it was a short meeting- only an hour with only two Councillors missing- Boehme and Holland although many others were late- a little snow, I guess. This was a Special Meeting of Council, the regular meeting the night before had been cancelled because of the snow. Don’t know what Cogeco did to fill in the slot, but they (Cogeco) were there last night to film the meeting, even though they were not showing it!

The changes to the Rideau Heights plan passed without a whimper or a protestation last night on the referral from Planning Board. This is a mistake on top of a mistake. The first Rideau heights plan- to put too many subsidized units together was a mistake and the most recent plan which raises the density to 75 units per acre is a mistake as well. The only thing that can save Rideau Heights now is a mix of buildings. Jason bets it won’t happen!

 GHG (greenhouse gases) are very much on the city’s mind. So much so that the City’s Paul MacLatchy, director of Environment and Sustainability is working on it, so is KEAF so is Sustainability Kingston. In a presentation by Ruth Noordegraaf the President of Sustainability Kingston, they hope Kingston will   (with others) become a founding partner in the GHG initiative. Sustainability Kingston is an interesting beast, in that the city gave birth to it, although they did not take it into the City, making it instead a non-profit, group – with admitted ties to the city. (Much like Fanny May’s relationship to the Feds south of the border) Should it fail, it will be a black mark on this Council and the one before it. Anyway, they will establish benchmarks and see how everyone is doing in reducing GHG. The question was raised was $10,000 enough “Yes” if other partners are found. If you think that the environment has taken over Sustainability Kingston, you would be right. But this passed unanimously as wished by Councillor Neill.

They will (so they say,) be reporting regularly. One should hear from them often – with three Cities creations guiding them!

Under New Motions a request by Councillor Boehme that the request for a “bump- up” to Planning  Board of a request by Tamarack Corp for a commercial plaza to have a site plan reviewed for issues such as Traffic and parking and landscaping was deferred to the next meeting of Council when presumably Councillor Boehme will be present.

 

 

Yin and Yang

February 4, 2016 — Yin and Yang

Hello All:

My name is Karen Pagratis and I report 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. Currently: Liz Schell (Chair), Jim Neill (Vice-Chair), Richard Allen, Jeff McLaren, Lisa Osanic (who was absent today) Laura Turner.

 

Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of the month in Council Chambers commencing at 6:30 pm. and are open to the public to observe and address

Yin and Yang

 

Another wonderfully brief meeting!

First and foremost the Rideau Heights Regeneration Strategy required some zoning by-law amendments and minor “Official Plan” amendments. These were passed with virtually no discussion and unanimous approval.

(The regeneration of Rideau Heights is universally anticipated with optimism. Initialized by the previous City Council, it is seen as a positive, progressive plan to re-shape a north end area that has traditionally been under-serviced and a community with more than its share of challenges. Many of the old, run-down buildings of the 1960’s are being replaced by more modern and size appropriate housing in demand today. As well, there will be a brand new community centre with a public library in the middle of it all. This is a win-win that the City, with Kingston and Frontenac Housing Corporation, has championed and its eventual completion is widely seen as a very good use of taxpayer’s money. (Something to be proud of and look forward to.)

Now to the less laudable, 720 Princess St. yet again. This is the developer who went to the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board), and won.   Thus everything that has followed in the planning process has been a series of compromises between developer and city council, with the staff very much stuck in the middle. Indeed one has the impression that many of the staff would have liked to start afresh, from the ground up, so to speak. But hey, we live in the real world which means we deal in the realm of the possible and practical, especially since the OMB ruled out the opportunity of the ideal. Therefore we have a building that has more units and bedrooms than originally acceptable according to the Official Plan, offering not enough parking, with an unattractive site line from the street because of course it will be right up against the sidewalk, like its sister building across the street, courtesy of the same developer. Although a few Councillors asked a few questions, they basically accepted what the staff said, that they (the staff) had worked very long and hard with the Applicant to achieve some sort of compliance with the Official Plan. And it passed.

The next Planning Committee Meeting is called for Feb.18th and it promises to be a humdinger!   I understand construction plans for the North Block will be raised. I’ll keep you posted, but don’t expect these meetings and reports to continue being brief, we’re going to be in for some lengthy talks.

 

 

 

The Shorts win again

The Shorts win again

Jason here. The meeting was over at 8.19 clearly there is a feeling on Council that everything does not need to be challenged. Mind you, there were no presentations, delegations or briefings and there were no recommendations from the CAO- those are always controversial! (they are matters of policy which should be decided by Council). On the minds of everyone on Council was the Special Meeting of Council on February 3rd & 23rd and the format of same. It will be unstructured and the public will have the floor if they want it! The meeting tomorrow at 6 o’clock will be about the end of funding by the Feds. This was expected and the city has to make allowance for it, Lanie Hurdle, Commissioner, Community Services will introduce the Consultants who have been hired to sort out the ramifications of the End of Funding., an issue judged to be too complex for a regular Council meeting .although the issue will result in controversy, it is not sufficient to warrant a Special Meeting of Council and could have been folded into the previous night’s meeting which ended at 8.19 a record! Not so, the meeting on the 23rd which will be the meeting on the changes to the Official Plan- mandated by the prov. for a five year review and particularly because of the new concept of ‘Nodes and Corridors’ introduced by the consultants hired to complete the review of the OP.( not SHS consulting!)

This is not the end of the Official Plan update. There will be another public meeting in April the OP will then go to Planning committee and will then will be presented to Council.

Good news from Rideaucrest; all the stats with exception of ‘falls’ meet or exceed the averages set by the Regional in this case, the Southeast LHIN, resulted in the recommendation by staff, was accepted that the existing contracts with Extendicare be renewed for two years when the cost( $342,000 plus tax) will disappear from the operating budget. In Addition plans were made for electric car plug ins along 401 – a move in to the new age? At least a small step to reducing Greenhouse gases. Maybe, if cars use it- anyway, it will not cost anything- for now! And that was it. No questions on how much the administrator from Extendicare was paid. No protest that cell phone towers were a federal responsibility – approval was given to two added carriers-Rogers and Wind Mobile (recently bought by Shaw) to the tower as required to prevent proliferation of towers. The tower is on the Centre 70 site and is owned by Bell Mobility. Is Council doing its job? You judge.

 

 

Up, Up and Away

January 21, 2016 — Up, Up and Away

Hello All:

My name is Karen Pagratis and I report 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. Currently: Liz Schell (Chair), Jim Neill (Vice-Chair), Richard Allen, Jeff McLaren, Lisa Osanic, Laura Turner.

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.

Up, Up and Away

Tonight’s meeting was over in the blink of an eye.

Remember the multi-unit apartment building proposed by our old friend, developer Jay Patry for 630 Princess Street and the discussion of which was deferred from the Dec 3rd Planning Committee meeting? Well we pick up where we left off, but with a little twist, Patry Inc. is trying to sell it. Now this might make one assume that the original developer would no longer care about the additional zoning and site plan amendments that are pending to increase the living space and hence the value, but one would be mistaken. What creates opportunity for more profit for the original developer will of course ultimately create more profit for the next developer and thus make the property value and its price go up. Councillor Neill pointed out that some other developer will gain the advantage of the amendment and staff agreed. It passed despite Councillor Neill’s opposition.

Next up was 1329 -1383 Gardiner’s Road. We’ve seen this one before, a Clermont Investments proposal for a Common Elements Condominium plan to create a huge business park. Councillor Osanic asked if there will be a limit to the number of businesses that can go in. Staff replied that according to the Official Plan no more than 25% of the floor space can be used for business. (Let’s remember that figure for future reference.) It passed unanimously.

Now while this is not strictly Planning Committee information, I do feel somewhat compelled to say a few words on a meeting I attended at LaSalle Secondary School immediately thereafter:

Mayor Paterson was holding a presentation at which we were shown slides of the “new” downtown skyline.  I could say “proposed” new, but the mayor seemed to be speaking of it as a given, a fait accompli.  It appears that we will have at least two new skyscrapers added to our downtown sightline in the very near future: the Capitol Condominium Building on Princess and the Homestead Development right behind the old S&R, north block.

While number of floors wasn’t specifically mentioned, both appeared to be exceedingly tall in the artist’s rendition.

The Mayor went on to say (and I paraphrase here) that while there are 100 or so people who are very articulate and who hold a different vision of downtown which they have frequently made known, the City needs to hear from the other 133,000 residents, and is reaching out to do so.

 

It makes one wonder who the articulate 100 are?