On Thursday night, Nov. 10, 2022, Kingston City Council voted to establish a permanent on-street parking bylaw exemption in Kingston’s east end.
Earlier in October, Council was set to vote on whether to establish an exemption to the parking bylaw for certain streets in the Greenwood Park neighbourhood, where residents currently lack the necessary space to safely park their vehicles without obstructing the sidewalk.
However, during a meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, councillors opted to defer the motion in order to give the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee time to weigh in on the proposed exemption. The motion was reintroduced on Thursday night, with no changes from when it was presented last month. The proposal stems from a decision made by Council in 2019, which created a temporary bylaw exemption for Bluffwood Avenue, Cyprus Road, and Cottonwood Avenue, allowing residents to partly obstruct the sidewalk with their parked vehicles, so long as there was still a safe off-road passage for pedestrians.
The decision was made following years of back and forth between the City and area residents who argued that the placement of the sidewalk made their driveway too short to safely park a vehicle in accordance with on-street parking regulations. Current City of Kingston bylaws forbid any obstructions on sidewalks that would “impede the free movement of pedestrians on that sidewalk.”
Under the permanent exemption, residents on the affected streets will now be able to partly obstruct the sidewalk with their vehicles, so long as they are parking a single vehicle and it is as close to the garage as possible. Residents whose vehicles do encroach on the sidewalk will be responsible for maintaining the affected portion, including snow and ice removal.
Before the motion was approved, councillors heard from several delegations regarding the proposed exemption, as Greenwood Park residents addressed the impact of shorter driveways in their neighbourhood. Chuck Rowsell explained that, prior to purchasing his east end house, he went to great lengths to ensure his driveway would accommodate his pickup truck. “We bought [our] home from the builder in 2003… At the time, there was no sidewalk, so it was a concern. We went as far as even calling the City, no [problem]… After we constructed our home, within months or a year after, the sidewalk eventually came in, and then it became an issue.”
Don Head, a resident of Bluffwood Avenue, echoed Rowsell’s comments, as he explained that his driveway ended up being shorter than originally planned. “We were assured, both by the developer and the City Planning office, that there would be no issues in terms of the length of the driveway, given the vehicles that we would be having. When our house was built… the sidewalks were still not in. When they eventually got framed many months after our house was built… it was very clear that our driveway was not going to be the length it had been planned to be.”
“I would hope that Council would favour [the permanent exemption], given the situation that the residents on Bluffwood, Cyprus, and Cottonwood are facing as a result of… the planning that occurred,” Head added, urging councillors to vote in favour of the bylaw exemption.
Once the motion was put forward for debate, Pittsburgh District Councillor Ryan Boehme spoke in favour of the permanent option and urged his colleagues to approve it. “I know this one’s kind of been around the table for a while, and it’s going on about two years now. The truth is, this problem was created over 20 years ago, and it was done through no fault of the homeowners themselves,” he said.
As a potential alternative to the permanent bylaw exemption, Countryside Councillor Gary Oosterhof suggested the City might be able to widen the existing sidewalk toward the roadway, in order to allow pedestrians additional space away from the parked vehicles. Ian Semple, Director of Transportation Services for the City of Kingston, explained that such an option was likely unfeasible.
“We’ve not investigated in detail the way in which that sidewalk could be moved. However, [with] the boulevard area, the curbing, and the roadway, there are many utilities that are contained within that boulevard,” Semple said. “The movement of the sidewalk… would be a complex project. It would involve removing the existing sidewalk [and] shifting things over. It would impact existing street trees and existing above-ground and below-ground utilities.”
Another area of concern for some councillors was the potential precedent such a bylaw could set, as residents in other areas of the City might ask for similar exemptions. “I’m concerned about the setting of a precedent… and I don’t know if there’s any way around it,” cautioned King’s Town District Councillor Rob Hutchison.
Mayor Bryan Paterson responded, “I do agree that we need to think carefully about whether or not we are setting a precedent for other areas of the City. But from what I’m hearing, there is a fundamental difference in what is before us versus all of the other scenarios I am hearing about.”
Paterson noted that, in subdivisions with similarly short driveways to the streets in the east end, residents are aware of the issue before they purchase their house. “People that buy the home understand they have a short driveway and therefore can make the decision about whether or not that works for them.”
However, the same cannot be said for the homes in the east end, Paterson explained — something the proposed bylaw exemption seeks to rectify. “What we’ve heard about tonight is a very different scenario: when the house was bought, there was no sidewalk, and they were assured the length would be acceptable, and then there was a change.”
After some additional debate on the issue, the motion was eventually carried by a vote of 11-1, with Williamsville Councillor Jim Neill opposed.
The full meeting of Kingston City Council from the night of Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, can be viewed on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.