Opinion: No Clearcuts Kingston calls for Independent Environmental Impact Assessment of proposed development

An exhibit as part of a 244-page report presented to the City of Kingston Planning Committee regarding a proposed development at Bath Road and the CN Rail tracks and abutting Collins Creek. Changes to the City’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws needed for the Armitage Homes development (outlined in a dotted line above) were approved by the Planning Committee at their on Thursday, Apr. 4, 2024, meeting. Image via City of Kingston documents.

Editor’s note: The following is a submitted opinion piece from local environmental advocacy organization ‘No Clearcuts Kingston.’ The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.

Citizens concerned about yet another local woodland facing a possible clearcut have called for an independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of a proposed development near Collins Creek.

At the same time, they say that the credibility of the City’s Climate Emergency vote in 2019 and recent support for the Montreal Pledge biodiversity protocol are being challenged by this 309-unit development supported last week by the Planning Committee.

More than 750 mature trees are threatened by this 8.6-hectare development at 4085, 4091, and 4097 Bath Road. In addition, hundreds of smaller trees would be removed (tree inventories only include trees greater than 15 cm in diameter at 1.5 meters in height), as well as the diverse plant and wildlife habitat that they support.

“This is a vital connecting piece of the Collin’s Creek watershed, Kingston’s last remaining intact natural-heritage corridor,” said Kerry Hill of No Clearcuts Kingston (NCK).

“The woodland at risk is ecologically significant based on its function as a wildlife corridor connecting Lake Ontario and provincially significant wetlands, woodlands, and valley lands that extend to rural areas north of HWY 401.”  

Citizens in the Collins Creek area believe that a financially independent third party should conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the results and study methods should be publicly available for review.

The credibility of the present analysis is being questioned because the EIA involved the developer paying private consultants to conduct ecological and tree assessments.  

“It has been well documented in academic literature that a financial conflict of interest can affect research outcomes,” said Kathleen O’Hara of NCK.

“Consultants providing favourable results to developers tend to be the companies that are repeatedly contracted. It is a flawed system that is difficult, time consuming, and costly for the public and elected officials to contest.”

The methodology and study results of the company that conducted the EIS for this application have been repeatedly challenged by ecological experts — most recently during the recent Tannery tribunal hearing.

Given the ecological significance of this woodland and the Collins Bay watershed, it is critical to have an objective financially independent third-party assessment before a final City Council decision is made on Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024.

Councillor Lisa Osanic plans to introduce a motion deferring this vote until all proper studies are complete and made public.

The loss of this woodland would be in direct conflict with many Official Plan planning policies, such as the 30 per cent minimum forest cover, and doubling our urban forest cover by 2025, commitments (section 2.8.2). 

No Clearcuts Kingston has identified more than 20 woodland areas within the urban boundary that have been or will be lost to development.

No Clearcuts Kingston
Kingston-based environmental advocacy organization

Share your views! Submit a Letter to the Editor or an Op/Ed article to Kingstonist’s Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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