Kingston City Council sat for meeting 18-2020 (agenda) on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, sitting in its virtual format. Though council had a variety of topics on the agenda, the focus of the meeting clearly circled around the ongoing homeless camp at Belle Park.
The meeting opened with a delegation, who connected to the meeting by phone and was calling from Bell Park to speak to the motion hoping to extend the eviction deadline. Though there were some technical issues at the start, the delegation did sort those out and made their presentation, followed by nearly 20 minutes of questions from council. Councillors Rob Hutchison and Mary Rita Holland jointly presented a petition, as well, with 863 signatures asking the city “not to evict the homeless encampment at Belle Park.”
Council discussed, at length, a motion from the Chief Administrative Officer, which asked council to waive the by-law surrounding regulation of parks until Friday, Jun. 19, 2020, enabling the campers at Belle Park to remain. Councillor Holland requested an amendment (with Councillor Bridget Doherty seconding it) requesting the date be changed to Tuesday, Jul. 7, 2020, and asking staff to consult with the Street Health Centre, HIV/AIDS Regional Services, Addictions and Mental Health Services, Home Base Housing and “other community partners” ahead of that date. After much debate about if allowing this was in contravention of the gathering regulations and the potential liabilities, the amendment carried 10-2, with Councillors Simon Chappelle and Wayne Hill opposed. Several councillors noted that they would feel uncomfortable supporting the motion any further than this new date.
Debate on the motion continued, focusing on public health implications, with staff and council both commenting that Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health could always step in and issue a public health order if needed. Though the motion was further amended slightly (with no vote) to add the option to find interim housing options as well as long-term supportive housing during debate ahead of the vote, the item carried unanimously 12-0, with Councillor Peter Stroud absent for the meeting. CAO Lanie Hurdle committed to providing an information report at the next council meeting to provide an update.
In addition to deciding on the Belle Park camp, council also approved the collective agreement with the Kingston Professional Firefighters’ Association through 2022, renewed its agreement with Loyalist Township to process recycling products, awarded paving contracts (including for Gardiners Road between Princess Street and Bath Road), and approved the wall adjacent to Douglas Fluhrer Park as a permanent wall for public art and murals (once provincial pandemic orders allow).
Council continues to meet in its electronic format until the pandemic state of emergency is lifted. A a number of committees and advisory groups, including items on accessibility, environment, infrastructure, arts and administrative policies will meet ahead of council’s next regular meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2020.
Born and raised in Kingston, Tommy Vallier bleeds limestone. An avid council watcher since 2004, he first began reporting on municipal affairs in 2011, helping to modernize meetings and make them more accessible through social media and live video. When he isn’t focused on City Hall, he’s an avid gamer, theatre supporter, and Disney fan.