23 storeys: Mayor’s secret deal with Homestead

This article appears in the Vicki New Times - coming to a mailbox near you!

In September, Mayor Bryan Paterson signed a “settlement” with Homestead Land Holdings Ltd., giving City Council’s go-ahead for two highrise towers downtown.  A 19- storey tower on Queen Street between King and Wellington Streets (behind GoodLife Fitness and the LCBO) and a 23-storey tower on Queen Street between Ontario and King Streets (behind the S & R building).

Normally, members of the public would be invited to comment on plans for building projects that go beyond the existing Official Plan and zoning by-laws. Projects that fall within the existing rules go directly to the building permit stage; they do not need City Council approval.

In the case of the two Homestead buildings, the public meetings held on February 18, 2016 and August 3, 2017 proposed two very different looking and lower buildings. These were met with considerable public objection.  According to the September 18, 2018 staff report, the settlement eliminates angular plane requirements which restrict height and adopts a new planning approach to allow tall buildings. It includes a “community benefit” of municipal gallery space rent-free for ten years, with an identified value of $300,000 although the city’s Public Art Master Plan does not call for the city to manage art gallery spaces.

The full details of the settlement have not been made public.

In June 2017, Homestead appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (now the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal), claiming the city had taken too long to reach a decision. The hearing is scheduled for February 2019. With the city now onside with Homestead, the three other parties to the appeal – Building Kingston’s 

Future, Frontenac Heritage Foundation, and the LCBO – will have to decide whether or not to go ahead and ask the Tribunal to decide on the merits of the settlement. When the city’s Official Plan calls for compatible development in keeping with its surroundings, why are 19 and 23-storey buildings good planning for Kingston?