As the current iteration of Kingston City Council winds down its regular business, members met for the second-last time of their term on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, in a meeting that featured little new business. While the meeting was shorter than most, taking less than an hour to complete, several key items were brought forward for members, including a vote on the high-profile development at the site of the former Prison for Women.
On Tuesday, City councillors approved a report from the Planning Committee, which recommended the necessary zoning and by-law amendments for a proposed subdivision at 40 Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard. The development, officially named Union Park, would convert the existing Prison for Women building into a condominium with 24 units. The project also includes a 10-storey retirement home and a building with 74 apartments for seniors, as well as an additional 10-storey hotel. While the subdivision does include over 200 residential units, a significant amount of the development would be reserved for park land and other outdoor spaces.
Before formal debate could begin on the project, Portsmouth District Councillor Bridget Doherty introduced a petition against the proposal, signed by neighbourhood residents. The petition, which included 198 signatures, read in part: “The proposed project will present substantial impacts on the neighbourhood and the community. This substantial change to the character of the neighbourhood should not occur without a comprehensive view from an Official Plan perspective. The project does not represent good planning and is not in the public interest, as there are significant concerns relating to height.“
The petition continued, “The proposed development is simply not compatible with the existing neighbourhood. We are not in opposition [to] development of the former Prison for Women site; however, we simply ask that development occurs [in] a manner that is in character with the existing neighbourhood.“
After reading the petition, Doherty then introduced a motion to defer the decision until late December, citing the need to give members of the community more time to “offer some more feedback and for the developer to perhaps reduce the height and address some of the concerns within the petition.” Doherty’s fellow councillors did not share her sentiments, however, and the motion to defer was eventually defeated unanimously.
Lakeside District Councillor Wayne Hill, noting the lengthy consultation process that led to Tuesday’s decision, spoke out against the need to defer.
“This is a project that has been very thoroughly vetted,” argued Hill. “There has been ongoing consultation with the groups in the neighbourhood… throughout this process. It’s the kind of project that’s going to provide for all kinds of public access and parks, as well as some important housing [with] a seniors’ development. It can’t be… that Council gets sidelined because, at the last minute, a group that did not respond earlier decides that they don’t like the project… There’s been so much put into this already. I just don’t see a deferral making any difference at this point.”
Sydenham District Councillor Peter Stroud argued that a decision should be made by current members of Council. “Who’s going to be on Council in December? It’s a new Council. Four out of five members of the Planning Committee — that went through this whole two-year process with this application, they’re familiar with all the details — aren’t going to be there… I think, for transparency reasons, we have to deal with it this [term],” he said.
Countryside District Councillor Gary Oosterhof also spoke out against the motion to defer, noting, “It’s time to move on. This is a good development. It has gone through so much review and oversight. There’s a lot at stake here, and time is money.”
Councillor Robert Kiley of Trillium District noted the extent to which the proposal has been vetted: “The oversight has been thorough from [both] the City’s perspective and the developer’s, in that they offered a number of opportunities for the public to engage over that time.”
Once the motion to defer was voted down, Council then proceeded to approve the proposed development; the recommendations passed by a vote of 12-1, with Doherty opposed. The project is set to be completed in three phases, the first of which will see work begin sometime in 2023 and include the conversion of the prison building, as well as the construction of the retirement home and seniors’ apartments.
Vote on Community Benefits Charge Strategy deferred
In other business Tuesday night, councillors opted to defer a vote on the City’s proposed Community Benefits Charge Strategy, which would govern the charges imposed by the City on new developments, in order to help cover the capital costs of infrastructure projects. Councillors were set to vote on a comprehensive strategy on Tuesday, one that was initially brought forward through the Planning Committee last month. However, as the provincial government recently announced changes to the Planning Act, Mayor Bryan Paterson felt it was preferable to defer a vote until staff could ensure the City’s strategy is consistent with the new legislation.
“Last week, the province announced some changes to the Planning Act, which would mean that what we would be adopting tonight would be inconsistent and would violate some of the changes to the Planning Act,” Mayor Paterson said. “I’m simply asking for a deferral back to staff, and then for a supplemental report to bring that information, about whatever changes are necessary, [back to Council].”
The motion to defer was approved unanimously.
Anyone wishing to watch the Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022 council meeting can do so by visiting the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.