The following is a letter to the Planning Committee and Committee Chair Councillor Jim Neill. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Kingstonist.
To the Planning Committee:
The Williamsville Main Street study envisioned transforming a neglected strip of Princess into a vibrant neighbourhood hub. It was to create liveable, walkable urban space with small businesses serving local needs: a true main street integrated with the Williamsville community.
The Planning Department’s Draft Addendum (available here beginning on Page 235) to the study turns that strip into a barren traffic corridor, with walls of tall buildings unalleviated by greenery or parkettes, and minimal setbacks from the sidewalk. Williamsville already has the city’s lowest allocation of public green space per capita.
The so-called “addendum” is in fact a complete betrayal of the study’s principles and of the neighbourhood’s residents.
At the Planning Committee meeting where the draft was presented, the planners consistently referred to “The Corridor,” indicating their view of Williamsville as a traffic pass-through, rather than as one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods.
At the February 12 meeting where planners sought public input on the current direction of Princess Street development, they acknowledged a community lack of trust in the Planning Department. They reiterated this in the addendum, yet it totally ignores concerns raised by the community.
Regardless of established limits, developers will demand zoning exemptions, which the Planning Department will — based on past and current performance — surely recommend for approval.
The addendum proposes adding housing for 7,000 to 8,000 additional people. The Transportation Study puts that figure at 12,000+. Kingston Utilities says they can provide the requisite infrastructure.
But where is there provision for the other services all these people will require? Where are the schools? the fire and ambulance stations? the parks? the community centres and swimming pools? (Artillery Park is already at or beyond capacity.)
Why are developers not being required to fund and build these essential services? And where will they be built?
The planners assert, without evidence, that it is no longer economically viable for developers to build less than 10 stories. They want to ensure “certainty” for developers (but apparently not for the neighbourhood). Developers are entrepreneurs, risk-takers by definition. They shouldn’t expect certainty.
The City’s primary responsibility should be to residents and local businesses. That is not reflected in this draft addendum.
Fiona Charles and Jill Shefrin
Alfred St., Williamsville