Tag Archives: mclaren

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”?

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The Big Short

Jason here. It was a very short meeting. 8.48 yes, that is right – 8, not 9 or10. We began with a feel- good presentation by jimmy Hassan who in deeply- accented English said that it was a big deal for him to speak before Council. He was following up on his suggestion that Council endorse having apprentices from high schools. They did. This has the potential of relieving Councillors of the heavy burden they carry. I hope that they are organized enough to take advantage of it. Hassan was after a not-very enthusiastic appeal by Doug Richie, the CEO of the BIA appealing to Council to pass the BIA as a ‘tourist district’.

The meeting had two focuses. One on the declaring the BIA a tourist area, to allow retail establishments to open , if they want to, on Good Friday, Christmas day and New Year’s Day.. There will be a public meeting on the possible opening- and that was passed. When it finally comes back to Council, expect a motion to include the entire city. The second focus was on Councillor McLaren’s very lengthy proposal re climate change. This (climate change) and what the city can do to help was sent to KEAF, which is interesting as the City employs Paul McLatchie as director of Conservation and Sustainability. This motion was not sent to him. Obviously Councillors expect McLatchie and KEAF to work together as they will. I wonder if KEAF will just ask for a report from McLatchie or dig in and do the research itself. This (KEAF) one of the committees that the CAO wished Council would disband as staffing has made it redundant. The mayor stepped in (although he should have made his opposition to whom to send the motion to as an amendment to the original motion) It passed anyway- . The first part on Climate Change and the second part (to whom to send the motion) was not passed. I don’t know enough of the protocol on New Motions to make a judgement but I expect this to be on the agenda at the next Council meeting.

 

Good Debate!

Jason here. All would be impressed by the quality of debate last evening. What is going on? First of all, the quieting of Councillor Neill has been impressive. Secondly, the mayor must have something to do with it! But what, Jason does not know. Maybe it is just a steadying influence. Maybe he spoke to Councillor Neill.

Third is the addition of Councillors Allen and McLaren- the latter between Neill and Hutchison. Maybe it makes a difference where one sits. So far we have not heard from Candon. Boehme is quiet, as is Turner. 

The much anticipated reform of non-statutory advisory committees happened last night. Gone is the near campus advisory committees as dysfunctional and the Memorial Centre advisory committee and the non-working Kingston Entitlement Access Committee, merged are the Municipal Heritage Committee and the Museums and Collections Advisory committee. This may have to be broken up again as ‘heritage’ is very important to Kingston. The Rural Advisory Committee made the cut as did the Housing and Homelessness Committee although the latter was advised to meet less often. All committees were advised to submit an annual report (they should have anyway) KEAF- drawing as it has on the experience and expertise of Queen’s, St. Lawrence and RMC and CRCA was the committee that Council hated to abandon, in fact it was saved by being thrown the carrot of climate change later in the meeting by McLaren and Allen. The environmental committee has been overwhelmed by in-house experts and the ‘environmental ‘ portion of Sustainability. Perhaps ‘ overwhelmed is not the word. In fact this committee is the last one -as staff grows- to appoint members with experience and expertise. So – over to them re climate change rather than the city’s staff.

Also under the gun was the City’s RFP procedure-. Councillor Hutchison’s amendment for future revisions to the Transportation Master plan which passed 7/5 was an example of the inadequacy of existing RFP procedure. Jason has thought for a long time that familiarity with Kingston should be worth at least 5 points

 

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?