Kingston City Hall’s council chambers had a court-like feel on Thursday as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) opened a pre-hearing into a controversial twin high-rise development.
Homestead Holdings wants to build two high-rise apartment buildings two blocks from city hall.
Opponents of the project say the developer is trying to undermine the official plan, which established a height limit much lower than what Homestead is proposing.
Those at the meeting, including lawyers and citizens, staked out their procedural ground in advance of a full OMB hearing at a future date.
“The city has allowed all sorts of things to happen. All sorts of development proposals to go forward that are against the official plan so no one really knows what the city’s position is anymore,” explained Vicki Schmolka, a member of the Coalition of Kingston Communities.
Homestead has already started preliminary work, including an archaeological dig, to get the sites ready for development.
The company wants to build 17- and 19-storey apartment buildings on opposite sides of lower Queen Street with about 400-residential rental units in each building.
“I think we need residential intensification in the downtown. We need more people living in the downtown and I think the official plan does provide some allowance for some taller buildings as long as there’s a number of other criteria that have been met,” explained Mayor Bryan Paterson.
The city is still negotiating with the developer, which has already taken its project to the OMB. The developer filed an appeal earlier this year after the city failed to make a decision on the projects within the allotted 180 days.
“We don’t know what the city’s position is yet in terms of whether they’re going to defend the plan, how, to what degree they will and what resources they’re going to marshal,” Christine Sypnowich, chair of the Coalition of Kingston Communities, said.
But according to the mayor, negotiations are continuing.
All parties have three weeks to file their positions. A date for the OMB hearing has not been set.