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Hall Monitor: To Time or Place

On Tuesday, Jul. 9, 2019, Kingston City Council sat for busy meeting number 18-2019 (Agenda) where, despite the earlier start time of 7:00 p.m., Council went an hour past their scheduled end time, banning election signs on public property and starting discussions for a potential St. Lawrence College campus in the downtown core in the process.

Ahead of the regularly scheduled meeting, Council sat for a short in-camera meeting to discuss “an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employee,” and then held a public meeting to provide background information on how the 2019 Development Charge and Impost Fee was calculated, as required by provincial legislation.

As the regular meeting opened, Council agreed to report from the closed session, where it was shared with the public that Gerard Hunt, who had been on medical leave from his role as Chief Administrative Officer, has stepped down from this position effective July 1, 2019. Hunt had served as CAO for the City for 10 years and alongside four different councils. Acting CAO Lanie Hurdle will remain in her role while the City works to find a permanent appointment for this role.

Short delegations were heard regarding a heritage application, a new remembrance memorial being proposed, a noise exemption, the replacement of grass with flowers along city boulevards and the potential of a new St. Lawrence College campus downtown. Council next heard a briefing from Tina White, Senior Project Manager with the Ministry of Transportation, who provided council an update on the renovation plans for the Wolfe Island Ferry dock set to begin this fall. This project, as the ferry is considered part of the provincial road network, falls outside of the jurisdiction of Council, but they can provide comment for the province to consider as the project moves forward.

The first major discussion point for the evening surrounded an item which would authorize City staff to initiate discussions and negotiations with St. Lawrence College on the potential establishment of the downtown campus though the redevelopment of Block 4, North Block District. Discussion fell less around the concept of a downtown campus, which was approved in the Strategic Plan, but more surrounding the value of this potential partnership, ownership of the land or building, potential use cases, height and traffic impact. During debate, a motion was tabled by Councillor Stroud to defer the discussions to the fourth quarter of 2020.

The Mayor’s chair and municipal coat of arms on display in Council Chambers

Discussions on a motion to defer are limited to time and place of the deferral and, when Mayor Patterson was allowing discussions that Councillor Stroud felt were beyond this scope, a challenge of the Mayor’s ruling was called. This challenge is rarely enacted and, following some confusion of how the process works, was defeated by a vote of 7-4, enabling a variety of comments about discussion duration, time sensitivity and even potential alternative locations for the campus. In the end, the item was carried by a vote of 8-3 (Councillors McLaren, Osanic and Stroud opposed), enabling staff to begin discussions. Councillor Holland was absent for the meeting and Councillor Hutchison sat out for the item on a conflict of interest, as he has family employed by the college.

Council’s next major discussion was surrounding the Vacant Unit Rebate and Subclass Reduction Programs, where council was being asked to phase out the current program over two years. The concept to phase this out was debated and deferred in 2018 to allow for more feedback time then brought back to the Administrative Policies Committee. Discussion surrounded communication and how businesses were informed of this change, to which staff shared that mailings were done, as well as meetings with larger businesses and property owners, through public meetings and discussions with the Chamber of Commerce. Following a failed attempt to defer this item by a year to allow for time to monitor how other communities are implementing similar changes (with its own discussion on time or place), this was approved with a 10-2 vote with councillors Chapelle and Oosterhof opposed.

There was a spirited debate around the election sign by-law, with council being asked to disallow signs on public property. Much of this debate surrounded the importance of using signs to identify candidates, notably incumbents and newcomers, their role in democracy and informing voters, plastic use and waste, and the impact of imposing such a rule on elections of other levels of governments. Council did approve the change, including fines for offences, by an 8-4 vote with Councillors Boheme, Chapelle, Oosterhof and Mayor Paterson in opposition.

Among other tasks they also completed in the meeting, council approved the purchase of a portable washroom facility for Breakwater Park and the 2019 Kingston Access Services budget, closed the never-opened Bluenose Street in the River’s Edge subdivision, approved noise and park use for Queen’s move-in events, granted the go-ahead to explore a project for wildflowers along Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, and approved staff time to work with the National Wall of Remembrance Association to develop a plan for implementation in Kingston.

Summer schedule for Kingston City Council means that this was the only regularly scheduled meeting of the month. The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.

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.

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