At its meeting on Tuesday night, Oct. 4, 2022, Kingston City Council opted to defer a decision on a permanent sidewalk parking exemption in the City’s east end, in order to allow the Municipal Accessibility Committee an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed changes.
In August 2019, Council approved a temporary bylaw exemption, allowing property owners on Blufffwood Avenue, Cottonwood Avenue, and Cyprus Road to partially obstruct the sidewalk with their parked vehicles, while still providing safe off-road passage for pedestrians. Last December, Council approved an extension to the temporary exemption for the 2021-2022 winter control season, while staff continued to examine a permanent solution.
The temporary exemption was introduced to accommodate parking at select properties in the city’s Greenwood Park neighbourhood, where driveways are too close to the sidewalk. Residents at the affected units are often unable to park vehicles in a manner that does not obstruct the sidewalk, which is currently an offence under the City’s Streets by-law.
Following three years of the temporary exemption pilot, councillors were presented with an option on Tuesday night to make the changes permanent, allowing select residents to park in a manner that partially obstructs the sidewalk, so long as they are parking a single vehicle in the driveway and it is parked as close to the garage as possible.
The permanent exemption drew the support of several councillors, including Ryan Boehme, whose Pittsburgh District includes the affected streets. “I would ask Council to support this because it’s simply a common-sense compromise to an issue in a suburban neighbourhood,” said Boehme, arguing that property owners are being negatively impacted by decisions they did not take part in. “Residents [at the exempt properties] are basically stuck with the driveways they have. Many years ago, some poor decisions were made that put the sidewalks too close to the houses; that’s where this comes from.”
Loyalist-Cataraqui District Councillor Simon Chapelle spoke in favour of the proposal, citing the success of the temporary exemption period. “I think this is an excellent compromise… This is the type of common-sense approach I think the City should embrace,” he said.
However, not all Councillors were immediately sold on the idea, as several members questioned the potential impact on those with accessibility concerns. “I’ve just seen, going door-to-door, a lot of people using scooters and wheelchairs, and so it’s at the front of my mind,” remarked Collins-Bayridge District Councillor Lisa Osanic.
The City’s Director of Transportation services, Ian Semple, noted that the Accessibility Committee had not been consulted during the preparation of the report: “We did not receive any comments from the Accessibility Committee on this report. The comments that we received from the public were related to the concerns that were outlined in the report.”
The report noted that complaints were received from 12 individuals during the period of the temporary exemption, only two of which ultimately led to parking tickets being issued. “A small number of warning tickets were issued when vehicles were found to be encroaching over the sidewalk to the extent that did not allow for a sufficient pedestrian off-road passage,” the report said. It should be noted that the “sufficient pedestrian off-road passage” provision, which was included in the initial temporary exemption, has been removed from the final proposal.
Williamsville District Councillor Jim Neill argued that a permanent change should not be voted on until the Accessibility Committee has been able to provide appropriate recommendations: “There are questions and potential issues here that should be addressed by the Accessibility Committee.”
After several additional comments from councillors regarding the overall impact of the permanent exemption on pedestrians, especially those with accessibility issues, Neill moved to defer the vote until the Municipal Accessibility Committee has had time to review the report and consult with City staff.
The motion to defer was carried 12-1, with Councillor Chapelle the lone vote against. The Accessibility Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for November 3, with staff expected to report back to Council at its meeting on November 10, 2022, at which point Kingston’s new 2022 to 2026 City Council will be in place.