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Kingston citizens group ‘in it to win it’ in fight over downtown condo project

Kingston citizens group ‘in it to win it’ in fight over downtown condo project
Kingston citizens group vows to fight Capitol condo developer's latest design.

Opponents of the Capitol condominium project in downtown Kingston are not impressed with the developer’s revamped, lower-scale design.

Samantha King, president of the group Building Kingston’s Future, says the revised 12-storey application by IN8 Developments Inc. shows no respect for residents or the planning process.

“In essence, IN8 is asking residents for the unprecedented privilege of having residents pay for a second consultation and review, while keeping two applications alive.”

Samantha Kingston of Building Kingston’s Future says her group has raised over $100,000 so far to oppose the Capitol condo project.
Samantha Kingston of Building Kingston’s Future says her group has raised over $100,000 so far to oppose the Capitol condo project. CKWS TV

King was referring to IN8’s plan to continue fighting in court to approve its original 16-floor tower at 223 Princess St. – a project rejected by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in November 2018 – while seeking municipal approval for a downsized building application at the same time.

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READ MORE: LPAT rejects initial Capitol condo project

“IN8 asked the Divisional Court to intervene in city planning matters and now is trying to do an end-around through city planning with a second application.”

The second application was submitted to city planners in late 2019 and will soon be the focus of a new round of public consultation.

A public open house will take place in Memorial Hall at Kingston City Hall on Feb. 6 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The city’s planning committee also intends to hold a statutory public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 on the revised application.

IN8 Developments Inc. is seeking municipal approval for a revised 12 storey condo on a former movie theatre property in the downtown.
IN8 Developments Inc. is seeking municipal approval for a revised 12 storey condo on a former movie theatre property in the downtown. City of Kingston planning documents

Darryl Firsten, president of IN8 Developments, has said the revised tower design is not only four floors lower but also offers ground-floor retail space on the Queen Street side of the building, greater setbacks to minimize the visual impact with condo units that slope away from the street on the tower’s upper floors, and parking located only beneath the building.

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Firsten also indicated he plans to continue with his appeal of LPAT’s rejection of the 16-floor condo – which offered a completely different design – when the matter goes to court.

The original 16-storey condo proposal was rejected by a planning tribunal, but will be appealed in court.
The original 16-storey condo proposal was rejected by a planning tribunal, but will be appealed in court. City of Kingston planning documents

The LPAT ruling said the 16-storey design would have a negative impact on the surrounding low-rise heritage character of the area.

READ MORE: LPAT rules on Homestead's two downtown apartment projects

The Divisional Court agreed to hear an appeal of the LPAT ruling, which will take place in Ottawa on Feb. 26, according to King’s group.

Building Kingston’s Future says it will fight both applications, and criticized the developer’s dual strategy.

“We fought the first application at 16 storeys because it was not good planning. We knew we had to speak up for our community and protect the integrity of Kingston’s Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw. We won. IN8 is refusing to accept the LPAT decision.”

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IN8 Developments Inc. wants to build a condo building on the former Capitol movie theatre property at 2
IN8 Developments Inc. wants to build a condo building on the former Capitol movie theatre property at 2. CKWS TV

She argues that tall buildings do not belong in the heart of downtown Kingston because residents and tourists value the “human scale of our downtown.”

The second application has no provisions for affordable housing and the tall building design does not address the city’s declared state of climate emergency, King added.

Firsten says his preferred choice is to proceed with the initial 16-storey condo, citing the city’s low vacancy rate and its own push for residential intensification.

He says his company’s revised 12-storey application “sells the city short” of its future residential needs.

READ MORE: Kingston hosts climate change symposium

But King counters that the developer can’t have it both ways, and she questioned the new application and ongoing court battle at a time when the city is drafting new rules to govern appropriate locations for medium-sized and tall buildings.

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King says her citizens group has raised about $125,000 so far to fight IN8’s original design, and the group, which she says has “hundreds of members,” will continue raising money to fight both applications.

“We certainly didn’t want to engage in this process. It’s been a lot of work, a lot of fundraising. We feel like the developer is trying to bleed us dry and bleed the community dry of its opposition.

“We are in it to win it.”

The new proposed development is about 40 per cent smaller than the first one. It will have about 147 condominium rental units, down from the original 212 units, with a mix of bachelor and one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The original plan to locate some condo parking in a nearby municipal parking lot on Queen Street has been scrapped, and all spaces will be located on-site, according to Firsten.

READ MORE: Kingston's vacancy rate climbs to 1.9%

Lawyer David Donnelly, co-counsel for King’s group, urged the city to tell the developer to stop wasting people’s time pursuing two applications for the same property.

“IN8 must think the city has money to burn. I’ve never heard of a developer asking for a review when there are two applications proceeding along at the same time.”

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