On Tuesday, May 7, 2019 Kingston City Council met in Committee of the Whole and approved their five strategic priorities through 2022. These priorities and projects, which were first established over a series of three meetings in March and prioritized using the help of public consultation and an external facilitator, were set as:
- Increase housing affordability
- Improve walkability, roads and transportation
- Demonstrate leadership on climate action
- Strengthen economic development opportunities
- Foster healthy citizens and vibrant spaces
As those meetings wrapped up, the Committee of the Whole asked staff to compile the priorities and projects into a concise, all-inclusive planning document. On Tuesday, May 7, the Committee of the Whole met once more to hear from senior staff, who each presented a section of the expanded strategic planning document to the councillors for consideration.
Presentations opened with acting CAO Lanie Hurdle speaking to councils first priority — increasing housing affordability — which she broke into 5 components. First, to pursue development of all types of housing through intensification and land use targets, including 3,045 residential units, implementation of the results from the mayor’s task force on housing, and tools and incentives for builders and developers. Additionally, this priority takes a look at building a significant number of units with a range of affordability, including development of city-owned 1316 Princess Street, promotion of secondary suites, the pilot of a tiny homes project on city-owned land, and additional work to advocate funding and increased investments towards affordable housing.
Sheila Kidd, commissioner of transportation & public works, spoke next and presented priorities in road repair, sidewalk and path usability, an enhancement of public safety through active transportation with a focus on pedestrians, and a pilot model that would look into transportation connections for rural Kingston. As part of her presentation, a report outlining existing and planned infrastructure projects was provided, outlining road work scheduled to be done in 2019.
Acting commissioner of community services, Peter Huigenbos, spoke third and touched on the priority of leadership in climate change. Projects in this portfolio include a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent across the city by 2022, an enhancement and expansion of green spaces and parks, protection of wetlands, and a focus on converting the city’s fleet of vehicles, transit included, to electric. The city is also seeking to target recycling and water reductions for businesses, institutions, and multi-residential buildings, while promoting incentives for residents to reduce their energy usage and become a part of the city-wide target to be carbon-neutral.
Gary Dyke, commissioner of corporate & emergency services was next to address the room, and spoke to the goal of strengthening economic development opportunities. Priorities under this category were to support new and existing businesses, as well as a redefinition of the roles and responsibilities of both the city’s economic development work and the work of Kingston Economic Development. Work under this heading also includes a fostering of innovation in the arts, culture and social enterprises, the creation of innovation hubs, the establishment of a downtown campus for St. Lawrence College, and a feasibility study and facilitation of both rural business parks and a deep water dock.
Huigenbos next returned to the podium to discuss the fostering of healthy citizens and vibrant spaces. Goals within this category include an increase in access to the waterfront and continued beautification of waterfront projects, the promotion of redevelopment along the Montreal Street corridor, support for a potential indigenous cultural space, an arts-focused trail walk along the waterfront, and the promotion of of food security solutions along with a look at fluoridation of the municipal drinking water.
Following a short break, Desiree Kennedy, CFO and treasurer, presented the financials of the strategic plan. Council had expressed an interest in various tax rate targets — which were condensed into three options for the purpose of planning: 2.8 per cent, 2.5 per cent, and a reducing increase transitioning towards two per cent. Kennedy spoke to the idea of a two per cent tax rate increase, noting that an increase in that range, notably if the one per cent fund for capital continued, would mean a reduction of non-essential services such as museums, community centres, and neighbourhood park programming. Kennedy also highlighted that a significant piece of the municipal budget is directed by external agencies, and encouraged the councillors to continue to champion that agencies work within the tax rate targets on the board they serve on.
In order to achieve the listed priorities, Kennedy said, a deferral or reduction of 15 projects would be required. Those projects included a deferral of the new Kingston East library, repairs and reconstruction on the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour and Frontenac County Court House, deferrals for Brock Street reconstruction and a new fire station at Elliot and Division streets and, most notably, the construction of the new parking facility at the Byron Parking Lot which, Kennedy noted, was nearly 40 per cent of the spending reduction — but, as it was being funded through the parking reserve fund, has limitations on how and where else that money can be spent. Acting CAO Hurdle added that, while this was an accurate snapshot of planned projects, additional requests from council could impact staffing demands and other locations and projects may need to shift in priority to allow work to continue.
The meeting finished with an approval of the strategic plan, with only a couple of amendments to clarify wording added. In approving the strategic plan, council set tax rate increases of 2.5 per cent in 2020, 2.4 per cent in 2021, 2.4 per cent in 2022 and 2.3 per cent in 2023. These tax rate increases include the one per cent funding for capital projects, setting the service taxation rate increase below the current levels of inflation. This motion, now approved by Committee of the Whole, will next be presented at the regular meeting of council on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 where it will see final discussion, if any, and decision.
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.