Special City Council meeting focuses on rural economic development

Kingston City Hall

City Council voted on strategies to guide Kingston’s continued rural economic development at a special meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

The discussions centred around the topic of the City’s “urban boundary,” which contains the built-up, generally fully serviced area of Kingston, and how to effectively manage service provision within and beyond it.

The motions council voted on all came from a report by City Staff, endorsed by CAO Lanie Hurdle.

“This is an important conversation to have with Council,” Hurdle said.

Hurdle led a comprehensive presentation to council on Tuesday night, which included contributions from private consultant Laura O’Blenis; Peter Huigenbos, Commissioner of Business, Environment and Projects; Andrea Gummo, Manager of Policy Planning; and Jim Keech, Utilities Kingston President and CEO.

According to O’Blenis, who briefed the City on rural business counts and demographics, the rural area of Kingston contains 15 per cent of the city’s population, spread across 83 per cent of its land area.

In recent years, she noted, the population in the fully rural area of Kingston has declined, while in the urban core it has “risen sharply.”

Kingston’s rural economy consists mainly of small farms and a “relatively large” number of construction firms, she explained. As of June 2020, there were 148 farms operating in the City of Kingston, she said. Only 20 per cent had more than one employee, besides the owners. A full 36 per cent of the farms are beef or dairy farms.

In addition to farming, she said there are approximately 380 businesses operating in rural Kingston, with construction and retail as the largest sectors.

Regarding growth inside the city, discussion focused on existing and future business parks including Cataraqui Estate Business Park, St. Lawrence Business Park, Clogg’s Road Business Park, Airport Employment Lands and Queen’s University’s Innovation Park

Gummo offered a high level discussion of City planning policies, as informed by the Provincial Policy Statement.

She noted that the majority of the City’s growth should be directed within the urban boundary, as, in general, higher density maximizes the efficiency of City services and avoids urban sprawl. She said the City must optimize existing services and use of land before expanding.

“This province is continuing to direct that infrastructure must be financially viable over its life cycle,” she noted. “This means not just the short-term costs are covered, but also those long-term replacement costs.”

Motions passed

As far as developing beyond the urban boundary, Council voted to support the concept of rural business clusters that can utilize private water and sewer services. The CAO’s report noted that expanding Kingston’s urban boundary to provide municipal water and sewer services would not be financially feasible, nor supported by provincial policy or “principles of good land use planning.”

Council also committed to continue to prioritize the development of employment lands, and to support job growth through the ongoing development of existing and future City business parks. An exception was noted for Lot 452 in the Cataraqui Estates Business Park, which may be considered at a future meeting.

Council directed staff to research and report on the current and potential future employment lands within the city that could be developed in keeping with the Provincial Planning Statement, City planning policies and strategic priorities. The report is due by the end of Q3, 2021. This motion was amended from an original recommendation that staff prioritize an Official Plan amendment to expand the urban boundary to add 25 hectares to the St. Lawrence Business Park, in the city’s east end.

Council will continue to support the future development of airport employment lands for businesses and uses that have low water and sewer servicing requirements. The report says the City does not have the financial capacity to extend additional servicing to the airport.

Finally, Council will direct staff to continue to work with Queen’s University to develop Queen’s Innovation Park, near the Kingston Centre, for employment uses.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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