Proposed development for downtown Kingston hits roadblock at Committee of Adjustment

An artist’s rendering of the proposed development by Jay Patry Enterprises Inc. at 563-567 Princess Street. Image via the City of Kingston.

A proposed residential development in Kingston’s Williamsville neighbourhood has encountered some potentially significant setbacks after the City’s Committee of Adjustment rejected an application for minor variances from Jay Patry Enterprises Inc. for a project at 563-567 Princess Street. During a meeting on Monday, Jun. 19, 2023, the Committee was presented with a staff report outlining four minor variances, which included reductions to the required rear yard space, as well as an increase to the overall density of the building. 

On top of the requests related to the size and capacity of the proposed development, the application also included two parking-related requests which generated some pushback from committee members. With existing zoning bylaws requiring 12 parking stalls at the site, providing a variety of different parking options, the applicant had sought to reduce the number to 10 “regular stalls,” while removing the need for specific accessible, visitor, and car-sharing spaces. 

Aside from the 10 regular stalls, the proposed development does not include any additional parking for residents or visitors; the applicant was seeking to address the shortage through the City of Kingston’s Cash-in-Lieu of Parking By-Law. The bylaw allows developers to reduce the number of required parking spaces in exchange for a monetary contribution to the City. 

In the report, City staff recommended the committee approve the minor variances, describing the requests as consistent with the City’s Official Plan and relevant zoning bylaws. “The requested minor variances are desirable for the appropriate development or use of the land, building, or structure and are minor in nature,” stated the report.

During the meeting, members were most concerned with the lack of parking options for residents and visitors. “I just find it difficult to see a 23-unit residential building like this with absolutely no parking… It’s not something I can get my head around,” remarked committee member Peter O’Hare. 

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Latoya Powder noted that such developments, with little to no parking options for residents, are not uncommon in other urban centres. “I know this is a new concept in Kingston to have zero parking. Car-free development is definitely something that’s emerging in a lot of major cities, especially municipalities with heritage downtowns,” she said. Powder also indicated that such buildings often attract tenants who are “environmentally conscious.” 

Powder went on, “We recognize that Kingston has many environmentally conscious people. They’re people who are downsizing; they’re losing their cars. I have co-workers who live downtown and don’t have a car who would love to be able to find a modern place to live.”

It was acknowledged that while the developer may be seeking clientele who prefer active transportation options, there will likely be some tenants who require vehicles for work or other purposes. According to City of Kingston Senior Planner Ian Clendening, individuals may be able to rent private parking stalls from property owners in the area. “There is an informal market for parking stalls that exists for people [who] have a residential property with a driveway, where they’re not utilizing it to the full extent. There is a secondary market, and there is an opportunity for this development to deepen that market, in terms of the demand there, if these people are going in eyes wide open,” he said, indicating that prospective residents would be aware of the parking limitations prior to signing any agreements. 

The buildings currently at 563 (right, white brick facade) to 567 (left side of the red brick duplex on the left) Princess Street. Image via Google Maps.

During the meeting, staff also noted the money provided through the Cash-in-Lieu of Parking By-Law could support car-share services, which give residents regular access to a vehicle through a paid membership model, reducing the need for people to own cars. Staff added that several car-share services already exist in Kingston, such as Communauto, which has a number of spaces in the downtown core. 

According to Clendening, while the bylaw doesn’t expressly state that funding will be directed to car-share services, the City could direct some of the funds to a potential car-share program in the future, depending on how the program is ultimately implemented. 

Aside from the parking issue, the report also included additional variances, such as a request to reduce the maximum rear setback of the building by 3.8 metres. In terms of the maximum density of the site, which is currently set at 210 dwelling units per net hectare, the applicant had sought to expand the number to 322 units, partially due to the reduction of on-site parking. 

“The proposed development does not intend to provide parking onsite. As a result, additional building area is available to accommodate a greater number of residential units, but which would otherwise generally be used to accommodate drive aisles, surface parking, and turn-around areas,” the report stated. During the meeting, Clendening confirmed the project would include a total of 74 bedrooms within the building. 

When it came time for debate, some members of the Committee seemed apprehensive about the application. Chair Peter Skebo took issue with the nature of the requests, saying, “I don’t see the variances as being minor — either of them — with respect to the rear yard setbacks and the density.”

Ultimately, the Committee of Adjustment voted 3-1 against permitting the variances. 

The applicant, Jay Patry Enterprises Inc., now enters a 20-day appeal window, within which the company can file an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLP). The deadline to submit an appeal is Monday, Jul. 10, 2023. 

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