Kingstonians fight for the Integrity of Our Downtown Core

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

“It cost citizens $100,000,” says Samantha King, speaking of the cost of challenging the Capitol, a proposed 16-storey condominium at 223 Princess Street. That cost came not from a budgeted account, but from individuals’ savings, garage sales, art shows – any way the appellants and their supporters could raise it.

 “We hired a top Toronto lawyer, a land use planner, a heritage planner, an urban designer, and a heritage architect to explain why a tower in this location is bad planning.  We went all out to win this to protect our human-scale beautiful downtown. Its preserved heritage is said to be the best along Lake Ontario,” explains King.   

 

The Frontenac Heritage Foundation was also an appellant.  The Foundation owns one of the oldest remaining tradesman buildings downtown on Brock Street.  The not-for-profit group promotes the preservation of heritage buildings, both downtown and in the surrounding are.  For Foundation president Shirley Bailey, the appeal was necessary because “the high rise didn't meet Kingston’s Official Plan and zoning by-law.  It showed no respect for the heritage context of the neighbourhood, would ruin the streetscape, and set a precedent for many more highrises downtown.”

 

At the 10-day OMB hearing, witnesses told the adjudicator, David Lanthier, about the Official Plan sections that city council had ignored in its September 2017, seven to six vote, approving the proposal. They pointed out that there are special Official Plan policies for Princess and Queen Streets because of their heritage character. These and other Official Plan policies must be considered, along with the intensification policy.  For example, a building should have no adverse effects on neighbouring streets and buildings and be compatible with its surroundings.

 

They pointed to the Princess Towers, 401 Princess Street, as a building that Kingstonians recognize as being out of context and out of scale with its surroundings; a good example of bad planning. They said the Board should not allow another planning mistake.

 

IN8, the company proposing the tower, was asking for many changes to the city’s rules including a five-fold increase in density; no setback from the Queen sidewalk; doubling the height; and half the parking spaces. In addition, the shadow from the building would reach Central Public School, on Sydenham Street, at noon hour in December.

 

“The community support we received for the appeal was amazing,” reports King. “. It shows how much people care about preserving what’s best about downtown Kingston. They are standing up for the Official Plan, even when the Mayor and some councillors don’t.”

 

The OMB decision is expected within the next few months

 

Annette Burfoot is one of the appellants, along with Samantha King, Vicki Schmolka, and the Frontenac Heritage Foundation.