City of Kingston wants public feedback on community benefits

Click to play video: 'City of Kingston drafting Community Benefits Guidelines' City of Kingston drafting Community Benefits Guidelines
WATCH ABOVE: New guidelines would change the way the city negotiates with developers who want to build bigger than zoning allows – Jul 26, 2017

The idea of giving something to get something is not new for residential developments in Kingston.

The practice that is often referred to as ‘density bonusing,’ could soon become a formal part of negotiations to permit large-scale developments through something called Community Benefits.

Residential developers can negotiate with city staff to build higher or wider than current zoning allows in exchange for providing benefits that are tied to the development. It could include an affordable housing component, more park space, improved public transit facilities or community meeting space.

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“I think the community benefits are important in the areas that are going to be impacted potentially by increased height and density,” said  John Grenville, a Kingston resident.

City officials are now starting the process of drafting the new guidelines. Staff said the hope is to create a consistent outline that is fair for all parties and is understood by the public and developers.

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“We’d like to make sure there’s a road map for how we have the conversations moving forward… to make sure the conversations are consistent,” said Greg Newman, Manager of Policy planning with the city.

Not everyone was pleased with the concept when it was brought forward at an open house on Tuesday night.

“There’s a kind of sense of ‘pay to play’… so you want to do what you want in the city? Just give us some money and it will be okay,” said Vicki Schmolka.

Schmolka is a former city councillor. She’s concerned that community benefits could end up costing taxpayers more money to maintain. She believes builders will be getting the better end of the deal.

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“We’re just asking for 20 per cent for a land value? That’s not very much when people are selling a unit for $250,000 and we’re getting a little portion of that and they’re getting permission to put up 40 extra units. It doesn’t seem very equitable,” said Schmolka.

The city has negotiated community benefits three times before. For example, with the owner of the downtown’s Capitol Condo.

Planners supported the 15-storey building in exchange for a community room, affordable housing and a cash contribution.

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But whether the city allows more of these trade-offs will depend on whether the community buys in to the concept.

A final recommendation is expected early in 2018.

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