Court dismisses appeal of Homestead development

An artist rendering of the two towers that Homestead Land Holdings Ltd. will construct on lower Queen Street. Rendering via the City of Kingston

Homestead Land Holdings Limited’s controversial plan to build two high-rise buildings in Kingston’s downtown core will proceed, after the Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed a motion for leave to appeal by the Frontenac Heritage Foundation.

In a ruling issued Friday, Jun. 17, 2022, Justice Sally Gomery denied the Foundation leave to appeal a 2021 Ontario Land Tribunal decision which had granted amendments to a zoning by-law and the City’s Official Plan, allowing Homestead to construct two high-rise buildings on lower Queen Street. 

Lawyers from Frontenac Heritage Foundation had argued that the Tribunal made “legal errors on issues that merit reconsideration by the [Court].” The November 2021 decision which the Foundation was seeking to appeal was itself a reversal of a 2019 ruling that denied Homestead’s project, as it would create “undue adverse effects that have not been sufficiently mitigated, specifically visual intrusion and architectural incompatibility.” 

Ultimately, the Foundation was unsuccessful in its efforts to appeal, with Justice Gomery ruling that “the Tribunal did not make any extricable error of law in its decision.”

“This has been a long process, and we thank our many supporters over the years,” said Shirley Bailey, President of Frontenac Heritage Foundation. “Obviously, we are disappointed that we were not granted leave to appeal. As an organization, we will continue our role of advocating for the heritage character of our historic core.”

Friday’s decision removes a major hurdle for Homestead, which has been fighting for years to construct two high-rise towers on lower Queen Street. The first tower will be a 19-storey building at 51-57 Queen Street, right next to Goodlife Fitness and the LCBO. The second tower will be 21 storeys tall and will sit next to the S&R building, at 18 Queen Street and 202 Ontario Street. 

The ruling brings to an end a years-long battle between the developers and citizen advocacy groups, with Gomery one of several officials to have weighed in on the project in the last seven years. The development was first proposed back in 2015, with Homestead following the City’s public consultation process and then appealing to the Tribunal when the City failed to make a decision on the project in an appropriate and timely manner. 

The project was then rejected by the Land Planning and Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) in August of 2019. However, in December of that year, the LPAT ruled that errors had been made in the initial ruling and that a new hearing was in order. That hearing took place in March of 2021, with the decision coming in November. 

On Friday, Justice Gomery outlined her reasons for denying the Foundation’s appeal of that November 2021 ruling, as she stated the Tribunal made a “reasonable decision” in allowing the amendments to the zoning by-law and the Official Plan. 

Supporters of the development were triumphant in their victory on Friday, with some taking to social media to express their satisfaction with Gomery’s decision. In a Facebook post, Mayor Bryan Paterson called the ruling “amazing news for Kingston.” 

The ruling comes at a time when the City of Kingston is experiencing an increased demand for rental housing units; a report earlier this year found that the City’s vacancy rate decreased to 1.4 per cent in 2021. The development could potentially add hundreds of new rental units to Kingston’s downtown core. 

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