Editorial note: The following is a submitted Op/Ed piece regarding the City of Kingston’s proposed ‘New Zoning Bylaw Project’ and the ‘Central Kingston Growth Strategy (CKGS),’ which will be decided on at a Special City Council Meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2022. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.
Most Kingstonian residents and owners of property in any Kingston neighbourhood have no idea of the damaging consequences of the changes in zoning if passed by Council this Tuesday.
The new regulations will allow the owner of any lot zoned ‘Urban Residential’ to add to their principal residence one or two additional residential units “as of right.” These additional units are not limited to small ‘granny flats,’ but can be as large as two stories and the same square footage as the existing structure. Council has tried to impose some limits, such as a total of an eight-bedroom limit, which, allegedly, has already been appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal in an effort to build more.
Residents know nothing, despite a five-year-long process, which has been completely documented and totally transparent, and available to all. This is possible because it exists only online. The traditional media has covered very little and city councillors who may oppose the changes do little to educate the public because it is seen as something imposed by the province.
It is also because the ‘Final Draft’ of changes was only made public online on Wednesday, Mar. 9, was passed by the Planning Committee on Thursday, Apr. 7, and goes to Council on Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2022. Some are concerned about the rush to completion without a more thorough public understanding of the changes it will impose.
Few of us really care about reading or listening or contributing to zoning details… except those with a vested interest, such as those in the development or construction industry, or those who realize their own property or neighbourhood is threatened. When neighbourhoods find out what this intensification means in height, or building mass, or crowding, they protest, as those in the Wright Crescent area have*, or those near McBurney Park did this past week regarding the proposed 16-storey project in their neighbourhood.
None of these protests involve the type of intensification caused by additional residential units that could apply to an owner-occupied lot unless it was welcome by the owner. But all of our homes, whether detached or townhouse, are surrounded by neighbours who, one day, will sell. Those offering the highest price may not want to live there, but are investors, large or small, who see its value in terms of adding bedrooms to maximize profit.
This is the type of intensification which has already occurred in the student neighbourhood (the University District, or ‘Student Ghetto’). Our zoning bylaws should be designed to protect rather than encourage a similar kind of development elsewhere. We need more mixed, affordable housing in liveable neighbourhoods that residents will want to sustain and that are not simply an addition to the City’s stock of units.
Those who believe the limits on additional residential units imposed by Council are not adequate to protect and grow good liveable neighbourhoods may be portrayed as ‘NIMBYs.’ If you believe that these additional residential units are not important to do right or will not affect your backyard, then you truly are a ‘NIMBY.’
*Editorial note: It should be noted that the proposed intensification of Wright Crescent has now been removed from the plan, following a “stakeholder engagement session” meeting between City of Kingston planning staff and residents of the Wright Crescent area. “In response to the written and oral feedback received, staff have removed the proposed Wright Crescent intensification area from the CKGS recommendations to allow for additional consultation and focused conversation with residents and stakeholders prior to bringing forward a future amendment to the zoning by-law and the Official Plan in this area through a separate process,” Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Community Services for the City of Kingston writes in the report going before City Council on Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2022.
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