The City of Kingston has received official notice that a controversial downtown highrise apartment project will be the focus of a rare second hearing at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT).
Paige Agnew, the city’s chief planner, says the municipality received the LPAT order to formally rescind its Aug. 9 decision and hold a rehearing on the matter.
“A rehearing of a decision of the LPAT is a rare and extraordinary remedy which may only be granted if the request submitted raises a convincing and compelling case.”
The initial ruling had rejected a city-backed proposal by Homestead Land Holdings to build a 19 storey building at 51-57 Queen Street and a 23 storey building at 18 Queen Street and 282 Ontario Street.
The ruling stated the building heights were not compatible with the surrounding heritage buildings.
However, Homestead asked LPAT to review its own decision, and the outcome will lead to a new hearing.
In 2017, the city voted to support the Homestead project in a deal that lowered the height of both buildings while adding a municipal art gallery.
Mayor Bryan Paterson says he supports the Homestead development.
“I’ll be the first to say that there are a lot of areas in the downtown where I don’t think that you should have tall buildings. But in the North Block — that area between Princess Street and Leon’s Centre — is an area where you can have tall buildings.”
Agnew says the tribunal’s decision to have a rehearing is based on errors made in the original ruling, including the way the city’s Official Plan was interpreted.
READ MORE: LPAT replaced the OMB
LPAT associate chair Marie Hubbard informed the city Dec. 23 that it intended to revoke the initial ruling, and the official rehearing order was sent to the planning, building and licensing department on Jan. 9.
According to Agnew, Hubbard outlined several points on why the high-rise project merits a second hearing. Among them:
- the LPAT review determined the adjudicator made an error of law by not properly factoring in a municipal assessment that found the high rise development was compatible with surrounding properties
- the LPAT found a number of policy objectives were not considered or balanced against the height issue, including the city’s chronic shortage of housing, intensification and North Block policies
- the LPAT found the initial analysis of the Official Plan was incorrect, specifically failing to take a holistic view of the OP
READ MORE: Kingston has a housing shortage
The rehearing represents a victory for Homestead and the city, which both support the residential towers as a way to get more people living downtown.
Mayor Paterson says the downtown needs more residential growth to help it thrive.
“All the housing construction we’re seeing is outside the downtown. I think we definitely need some real investment in new housing in the downtown.”
Kingston’s 0.6 per cent vacancy rate is the lowest in Ontario, making it difficult for people to find a place to rent.
Agnew says a new date for the re-hearing will be set once the parties to the original appeal — the city, Frontenac Heritage Foundation and Homestead — hold a case management conference. She says the earliest the pre-hearing conference can take place is June.
Agnew says a more detailed information report on what comes next will go to council Jan. 21.
She says LPAT’s about-face shows the city needs to revamp its building policies.
“Situations like the North Block LPAT appeal illustrate the need for clear, consistent building policies.”
READ MORE: Kingston revamps tall buildings policy
It’s why the city is currently working on a first-ever mid-rise and tall building design policy to help clarify and guide future development.