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What they’re saying: Comments from the public Density by Design meeting

On Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, Paige Agnew, Director of Planning, Building & Licensing Services for the City of Kingston, and Brent Toderian, an urban planning consultant working with the city, presented the ‘Density by Design’ options report to the Planning Committee and the public.

Following comments from councillors on the committee, members of the public were invited to speak. In all, four speakers representing development companies, four speakers identifying as representing an association or agency, and two citizens who did not affiliate themselves with a group or organization spoke. Here’s a sample of what they had to say.

Ken Dantzer of CaraCo Development Corporation, David Trousdale from Homestead Land Holdings, Nathan Richard of Patry Development, Paul Martin from RPM Construction. Photos by Tommy Vallier.

“Design policies shouldn’t add — significantly or unreasonably — construction costs and housing costs without demonstrable and justifiable public advantages. So I think it’s very important that the feasibility study be received, reviewed by stakeholders, and [that you] ensure that it’s reliable and is guiding to things that are feasible, as opposed to expensive.” — Ken Dantzer, CaraCo Development Corporation

“There are some things in [the paper] that we are concerned about in regards to the impact on affordability of multifamily housing. If you’re going to target specific areas and put or imply that zoning can be allowed in those areas, you are going to be driving up land cost. If you’re going towards smaller floor plates, the unit yield from a construction perspective is going to lessen. You’re not going to get as many units out of a building. Again, that will drive up costs.” — David Trousdale, Homestead Land Holdings

“We do applaud the members of council for encouraging wood construction and we do recognize that as a positive for greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a durable, affordable, renewable resource. One of the projects that we’re looking at right now, it’s a large project and the numbers that we got from the Canadian Wood Council is that you could grow the grow those trees back in 60 seconds in Canada. So that gives you a perspective on what you’re working with on the renewable resource side of things.” — Nathan Richard, Patry Development

“We would like to try to be more proactive and work closer with your staff in making sure that these studies and, in particular, the economic aspect of it, are flushed out properly. When we were building apartments, as an example, we used to never put sprinklers in. Well, now it’s a necessity. That added an extra $500,000 into a 10-storey building that wasn’t there before. And at the end of the day, unfortunately, I’m sorry that it’s the people that are going to have to live in these accommodations that are going to have to pay for it.” — Paul Martin, RPM Construction

Megan Knott of Tourism Kingston and Kingston Accomodation Partners, Doug Ritchie from the Downtown Kingston BIA, Meredith McDonnell of the Sydenham District Association, and Mark Touw from the Kingston Home Builders Association. Photos by Tommy Vallier.

“In reading the density by design report, we did identify many parallels as it relates to the integrated destination strategy. Tourists are savvy, and they know that the less eco footprint that they have — the green traveller if you will — it’s important to them. They want to come into the city and experience our city as eco-friendly as possible. Being able to do that in a safe, pedestrian-friendly spot is part of our unique selling proposition. Tourists don’t want to displace and travel once they’ve travelled here. They want to travel by foot. There really are tourists that admire what we do within our city to blend the old and new.” — Megan Knott, Tourism Kingston

“To maximize the benefits to this community, both environmental, social, health and wellness, and economic, you’ve got to put density in full service, commercial zones. There’s got to be groceries, there’s got to be retail, there’s got to be personal services. You need to be able to walk to a supermarket, a specialty food store, your doctor, your dentist, all the professional services and all the personal services. Your ‘third place’ — your home, your work, and your special place. Whether it’s a coffee shop, your physio, your yoga salon, or your pub, have to be in walking distance from proximity to one another.” — Doug Ritchie, Downtown Kingston BIA

“We absolutely support the intent of the materials in this policy report and the direction of mid-rise and tall building issues in this. Mid-rise and large scale buildings must be well placed and well designed with human environment in mind to be successful. We need more housing, but we need more housing for all. So accessible housing, affordable housing, central housing to where most of us work, and also housing part-time residents that are attending Queen’s and St. Lawrence College. We don’t want the conversation of ‘where to’ and ‘where not to’ to overshadow the importance of ‘how to’ actually design these buildings” — Meredith McDonnell, Sydenham District Association

“The economic analysis needs to be fully vetted before drafting the policies. There is concern about certain directions being predetermined at this point, given the detail of some of the analysis and some of the recommendations are coming out of it. We’re also encouraging the city to seek meaningful input on a broad spectrum in the community. Typical approaches tend to result in feedback from all the usual suspects, and not the general public at large, who will be the one most ultimately impacted by these policies.” — Mark Touw, Kingston Home Builders Association

“I think the work is timely, sophisticated, innovative, and vitally important. We take pride in being an innovative city with a model of where history and innovation thrive and this is a practical realization of that. We have to emphasize and value heritage and the livability elements of our historic downtown, while also boosting density and maximizing the use of infrastructure which was already in place. I would oppose any new buildings of greater than 12 storeys in downtown Kingston.” — Frank Dixon, resident

“The number of people addressing the meeting who were from the building community and development community, and some of them who I felt demeaned the contribution of associated people, worried me. The needs of the people doing the building need to be taken to account, however there’s another perspective. We spend a lot of time reading the literature and reading the reports. We are in touch with our communities and we often bring a longer term perspective of the city. ” — Matthew Gventer, resident

Frank Dixon and Matthew Gventer, concerned residents, who both spoke at the public meeting on the Density by Design document and didn’t affiliate themselves with a group or organization. Photos by Tommy Vallier.

Kingstonist also provided a more complete summary of the meeting.

Residents looking to have their voice heard with regards to this proposal can still do so with the public comment window currently open through Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. We’ve created a list of ways you can participate to make it easy.

Kingstonist will continue to follow this policy change and update to the official plan over the months ahead.

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