On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, Kingston City Council denied Patry Inc. Development’s request to amend the City’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws, thereby blocking the development proposed on the site of the former Davis Tannery.
Made by a margin of eight to five — seeing Councillors Wayne Hill, Gary Oosterhof, Robert Kiley, and Ryan Boehme as well as Mayor Bryan Paterson in the minority — the decision came after months of public and private debate about whether Patry’s proposal was practical, beneficial, and environmentally sound. To be clear, Council voted for the recommendation of the City’s Planning Committee, which was to not allow for the proposed Official Plan and Zoning By-law changes; therefore, as Mayor Paterson expressed, a vote in favour of the recommendation from Planning Committee was a vote against the proposed development. City of Kingston Staff had previously recommended that Planning Committee and Council approve the proposed changes.
The debate saw councillors respectfully presenting the reasoning behind their voting decisions, with the main points of contention balancing the need for housing against concerns over meeting environmental standards set by the City.
Councillor Hill argued passionately that the land would be much more usable if it were developed than if it were left as it currently stands.
“The way I see it,” Hill explained, “this isn’t really a debate about climate change. We already know that the contribution to reducing [greenhouse gas] emissions that these trees will make is negligible. It’s not really about the debate about public access to some wilderness oasis in the middle of the city; it’s a relatively small parcel of land. It’s contaminated. It’s closed to the public. It’s private land, and it is owned for development. It’s never going to be able to be Lemoine Point or… Lake Ontario Park… It’s not accessible to the public, and it won’t be if it’s not developed.”
Councillor Lisa Osanic countered strongly, arguing that the land, while not pristine, has still become a viable habitat for animals and is an ecosystem in its own right.
Mayor Paterson noted that the proposed development was a chance to build 1,600 housing units in the core of the city, while addressing a necessary environmental clean-up at the same time.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clean up the largest brownfield site in the city,” Paterson asserted.
“Now, I respect the many people that have written in with emails with concerns with questions about this proposal,” he continued. “But what about the four or five thousand people that will be able to live here? Who’s their voice? … I, for one, want to be able to look people in the eye when they say, ‘What are you doing to help with housing?‘ I want to be able to tell them, ‘I’ve done everything.‘”
The Mayor expressed his confidence in the reports that were “signed off by every reviewing agency — CRCA, Parks Canada.” He pointed out, “These are not experts that have any financial interest in the development at all. And yes, it will require trees to be cut down, but those trees can be replanted. Trees can be replanted – people can’t.”
Councillor Rob Hutchison noted what he perceived as shortcomings in the technicalities of the proposal, saying, “Whether you agree with development or not… my reluctance… has to do with the recalcitrance of the developer to make changes that would benefit what the community considers important… I don’t think we’ve tried hard enough to address at least some of the public’s concerns.”
Hutchison also pointed to Patry’s lack of Indigenous consultation, for which the company’s excuse was “because it’s not required,” he explained.
“Look,” said Hutchison, shaking his head, “after 250 years? It’s a matter of principle.”
Councillor Mary Rita Holland thanked her colleagues, members of the public, “and of course staff who have put in so much time and energy on this file.” She agreed that housing is “urgent, we have a great need,” but pointed to the actual low number of proposed affordable housing units: 100 over four phases of construction that will take 12 years.
Holland echoed Hutchison’s reluctance to approve anything without Indigenous consultation: “It’s not in keeping with our commitment to reconciliation with the Indigenous community,” she said.
The site of the proposed development, the adjacent marsh, and nearby Belle Island all have a central role in the area’s Indigenous history as grounds for hunting and fishing. Additionally, in 1988, an ancient Indigenous burial site was located on Belle Island.
Councillor Peter Stroud agreed with Holland and Hutchison that the proposal, as it stands, is insufficient and leaves many unanswered questions that need to be addressed.
“This proposal is not up to our standard,” Stroud said, calling Patry Inc. a corporation that “doesn’t budge.”
“If we want this particular developer to give us some better items in the proposal — more environmentally sound, more details on remediation, etc., etc. — we need to say no,” Stroud urged.
“That’s how you negotiate with this type of developer. That’s it. It’s very simple. It’s not saying no to development, It’s saying no to this proposal.”
Patry Inc. forges on
In a new development on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, Patry Inc. released a statement condemning the decision by Council. Rather than make any concessions in its proposal, the statement noted, Patry Inc. will appeal the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
“This decision is extremely disappointing,” said Jay Patry, President of Jay Patry Enterprises LLC, in the written statement. “Particularly where we are in a housing crisis, and had worked hard to cooperate with staff and the community. With Council’s rejection of staff’s recommendation, we will have no choice but to appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal. This decision of Council will directly increase the cost of these residential units, and has a direct impact on housing affordability in Kingston.”
“The long history of former industrial use had left the property highly contaminated and vacant for several decades,” Patry’s statement continued. “The proposal would include four buildings and introduce approximately 1,670 desperately needed residential units into Kingston creating a mixed-use neighbourhood, including 100 subsidized affordable housing units. Over the nearly five years since the applications were submitted, the proposal underwent rigorous technical reviews and the proponent responded to each and every issue, securing support by all reviewing agencies for the applications to proceed to the next phase of approvals.”