There wasn’t an empty seat in the public gallery at Council Chambers last night as Paige Agnew, Director of Planning, Building & Licensing Services and Brent Toderian, an urban planning consultant working with the city, presented the ‘Density by Design’ options report to the Planning Committee ahead of a period of public comment.
“The key output of this work will be new policies for the Official Plan and the zoning by-laws. What’s before you tonight is high level, preliminary options,” Agnew commented during opening remarks, adding that final policy creation is expected in 2020. “We are not at a decision point, we’re at a project milestone,” she added.
The proposed policy changes, which the city made available to the public on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, is seeking to create “green light” areas of the city, making it easier for the construction of mid-rise and tall building developments in those locations, while also making it more difficult to develop these types of buildings elsewhere.
“This is the first exercise of this type for tall and mid-rise buildings that I’ve seen that has made direct connections to the climate emergency,” said Toderian, who worked in urban planning for Calgary and Vancouver before starting consulting with municipalities around the world. “Kingston is breaking new ground in that sense.”
The report is currently recommending up to six policy areas through the city. Street-oriented urbanizing areas will be expected to have their design completed in relation to existing streetscapes. Large site urbanizing areas would follow the same concept, but would be expected to have a dedicated master plan and potentially new roads. The downtown core is planned to have separate policies for both heritage and non-hertiage areas. The proposal also looks at suburban areas and the urban waterfront as policy areas, and would incorporate the current Williamsville control by-law.
In addition to the the potential six zones, some of the recommendations being made as part of this report include:
- Setting height limits in the downtown core areas, while using site-specific or other design options (such as floor plate size) to set the maximums in other areas.
- Creating city-wide definitions for ‘mid-rise’ as four-to-six storeys and ‘tall’ as 10 storeys or more, while leaving the middle seven-to-nine-storey window defined per policy area and defining maximum floor plate sizes for each of the policy areas.
- Creating angular stepbacks or other design guideline regulations for the upper floors, including the fifth to sixth floors on mid-rise buildings and floors above the seventh on taller buildings
- Creating policies to build “active and interesting pedestrian-scaled street frontages,” including floor plate setbacks from the street and design policies for podiums (including stepbacks after the fourth floor), and reduce or prohibit blank walls facing the street fronts.
- Create policies surrounding building access points, integration of commercial space, external material and colour design (notably in heritage-defined areas), and in-building active transportation support options including enhanced pedestrian amenities and bike parking.
- Create parking policies that emphasize below ground spaces while creating regulations around above-ground spaces such as requirements to place above-ground lots on the interior of the building, or create visual screening, potentially including public art.
As the presentation was held at Planning Committee, members of the public as well as agencies and community groups were given the option to provide comments to the presentation.
In addition to private residents, representatives from developers CaraCo, Homestead, Patry ,and RPM Construction provided feedback during the meeting, as did representatives from Tourism Kingston, The Downtown Kingston BIA, the Sydenham District Association, and the Kingston Home Builders Association.
Consensus from comments was, generally, that the broad concept of the policy was a good direction for the city to be taking. Some concerns about length of public comment time we raised, notably in relation to yet-to-be-completed financial feasibility study which is set to be released in early 2020.
This public meeting wasn’t the first time the planning staff have engaged the public on this topic. A series of five presentations and Q&A sessions, along with breakout work group meetings, were held in April and May to help shape the direction of this document.
“One of the realities of municipal government is that, in the preparation of policy, we sometimes don’t get huge turnouts,” commented Councillor Jim Neill, who chairs the Planning Committee. “Then a policy is made and we get a number of people who come to talk about it. That’s a frustration at times.”
Residents looking to have their voice heard with regards to this proposal can still do so with the public comment window currently open through Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. We’ve created a list of ways you can participate to make it easy.
Kingstonist will continue to follow this policy change and update to the official plan over the months ahead.