Mayor responds to Tribunal decision on Capitol Condos project

Current site of the Capitol Condos project on Princess Street.
Kingstonist file photo.

Just hours after the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal ordered the City of Kingston to repeal the by-law supporting the Capitol Condos project, Mayor Bryan Paterson is considering the decision a chance for learning and moving forward, he said.

“I think the first thing I would say is that I think, as a City, we’re still fully committed to residential intensification in the downtown. That goal is still there. But there’s been some really good discussion and almost an evolution in that discussion, even over the last year – so, long after the decision on the Capitol was made – about how to get the right kind of intensification, looking at not only height, but design,” Paterson said in the early evening of Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

“This decision here, I think, feeds into that discussion. So, if this development does not go ahead, what development does go ahead? What sort of options are there for changes in the design and the look and the features so that we can find that way, so we can find that balanced approach to getting the right kind of development that fits in the downtown? That’s a discussion that I think we’re going to continue to have,” he continued. “So, I’m looking forward to just understanding more of the details about the rationale for the decision. How do we learn from it and then how do we move forward?”

Paterson said that, while he does not know if IN8 Developments, the Toronto-based company behind the Capitol Condos project, will want to move forward with a redesign for the site on Princess Street – the former Capitol Movie Theatre – he hopes that something is going to get built there.

“That’s going to be their decision and obviously there are a lot of factors, [and] a lot of information to digest,” he said.

What will happen at the site remains unknown. Calls and emails to IN8 Developments from Kingstonist were not returned by time of publication (6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9). But Paterson explained that, whatever does happen with the site will require City Staff and Council to have a complete understanding of the Tribunal’s “rationale for their decision,” he said.

“From a City level, [we need] to understand those decisions and say ‘what, then, are our next steps to ensure and encourage residential development, and to get that right, balanced approach,” he expressed.

The main issues on the part of the group of concerned citizens that filed the appeal with the Tribunal (then known as the Ontario Municipal Board or OMB) were centred on the Capitol Condos development not being in compliance with the City’s Official Plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to rewrite the Official Plan to allow for such developments, Paterson said.

“I don’t think that we’re at that stage at this point. My understanding of the Official Plan, and certainly in discussions with some of our senior planning staff, is that there is some flexibility built into the Official Plan by design, in order to be able to allow for some creativity in developments, and I think you want that, you want that flexibility,” he expressed.

“At the same time, that flexibility comes with conditions. And if those conditions aren’t met, then what do we need, what sort of modifications or changes to development proposals are needed to be able to meet those conditions? I think that there’s still lots of room to understand and to move forward without needing to look at something like rewriting the Official Plan.”

And with a new term of City Council beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 4, Paterson conveyed that there is no time like the present for everyone to educate themselves on the Tribunal’s decision, and heed that information moving forward.

“Perhaps the timing of this is good because we’re about to start a new council term and we know that housing is going to be at the top of the agenda,” he said.

“Let’s feed this into the education and information that council needs to be able to understand how we can achieve our goals of encouraging intensification.”

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