The Coalition of Kingston Communities is pointing to a number of problems of accountability and transparency with the plans for redeveloping the Kingston Penitentiary and Portsmouth Harbour properties.
‘For a site of extraordinary historic value, for the nation as well as Kingston, it is very disappointing to see a faulty public engagement process and such inadequate attention to heritage conservation,’ says Christine Sypnowich, Chair of the Coalition.
The City is considering the fate of the 20-hectare waterfront lands at its July 11 meeting. The Coalition has raised the following concerns:
- The Taylor Hazell Architects Report, prepared in collaboration with respected local heritage consultant Andre Schiennman, recommends that the entire site be given heritage designation. The report has only just been made public. The City’s plans for development make no reference to the expert advice provided in this report.
- The City invited the public to comment on the final vision for the Portsmouth Village site when the report to Council was already in process and there was no meaningful opportunity to integrate public feedback.
- Heritage Kingston, which advises Council on the management and development of heritage properties throughout the City, has not had the opportunity or been invited to consider plans for the properties.
- The federal ministries responsible for parks and heritage have not provided input on the plans.
- The Frontenac Heritage Foundation (FHF) commissioned local architectural historian Jennifer McKendry to provide detailed analysis of the heritage value of the site. The FHF analysis notes 10 key and irreplaceable limestone buildings on the site, some of which are slated for demolition in the City’s plans. The City’s plans make no reference to the FHF document.
- The City is pushing ahead on its plans for the site in the middle of the summer, when many people are away or preoccupied with summer activities, and without a clear indication of the overall decision path for such an important planning initiative.
The Coalition, formed almost two years ago, is made up of 25 community associations and activist groups and is dedicated to improving the processes of civic engagement and accountability of City Council and City staff to further the wellbeing of Kingston.
The community groups joined forces in frustration with the City’s failure to follow proper consultation processes. Since then the City has hired consultants and held numerous meetings to improve its public engagement policy, but the Coalition contends that on important matters of policy, the public continues to be sidelined.
Community groups concerned about the development plans include Friends of Kingston Penitentiary and the Frontenac Heritage Foundation.
‘What do members of the public need to do to have Council pay real attention to their concerns?’ asked Paul Rose, another spokesperson for the Coalition. “The penitentiary’s heritage value is so significant, and the waterfront site so pivotal to the City’s quality of life, it is extremely distressing to see this plan being rushed through.’
Media contact: For more information contact the Coalition of Kingston Communities.