Turning Kingston drive-in theatre to scrapyard raises environmental, visual concerns

The demise of Kingston’s only drive-in movie theatre has led to plenty of questions and concerns from politicians and the public about a new plan for the now-vacant land – acres and acres of scrap cars.

A proposal to transform the sprawling 15-acre property at 1533 McAdoo’s Lane, just off Division Street, into a massive auto recycling scrapyard had its first public airing at the city’s planning committee.

A rezoning application would see the former Kingston Family Fun World converted into an auto recycling and storage space for about 1,600 scrap vehicles on McAdoo’s Lane. CKWS TV

Some councillors expressed concerns about the potential visual and environmental impacts of allowing another industrial junkyard zoning on the rural Kingston road, which is already dotted with similar auto recycling businesses.

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“McAdoo’s Lane has been under assault for six decades, and maybe more,” says rural councillor Gary Oosterhof.

The Countryside district councillor told the Dec. 17, 2020 committee that this proposal marks the first time a scrapyard would be located on the south side of McAdoo’s Lane, which overlooks Highway 401 and the urban part of Kingston.

Oosterhof says despite the good intentions of the developer, the corner lot is in a prime location that is more fitting for a marquee development to showcase the city, and he’s worried the only thing local residents and travellers will see is a graveyard of scrap vehicles.

“The visibility is such a big deal in the rural area,” he added. “I don’t think any land is compatible to that sort of storage.”

The redevelopment proposal includes on-site storage for about 1,600 junk vehicles, an auto crushing machine and a one-storey building on the northeast corner of the property for an office, a small used car salesroom and de-pollution facilities where the former three-screen Kingston Family Fun World drive-in and go-kart track business operated for decades.

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The drive-in theatre closed in the fall of 2019.

The proposed auto recycling and scrap yard would be operated by Kenny U-Pull, similar to its operation in Cornwall, Ont.
The proposed auto recycling and scrap yard would be operated by Kenny U-Pull, similar to its operation in Cornwall, Ont. City of Kingston planning application document

The property was sold to an unspecified buyer, but according to municipal planning documents, the metal recycling yard will be operated by AIM Recycling, while the collection and storage of junk vehicles will be run by Kenny U-Pull, a company that has similar operations across Ontario and Quebec.

“As a result of the Kenny U-Pull business model, the outdoor storage of recycled cars is highly organized and resembles a parking lot more than a typical salvage yard,” according to a staff information report.

The visibility factor also weighed on the mind of Coun. Lisa Osanic, who sought assurances the cars won’t be stacked three or four high, and that coniferous trees can be planted on the west and southern perimeter to shield the junkyard from passersby.

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“That view (from the 401) is important. It’s one of the gateways to the city.”

City staff say the proposed scrapyard is on an elevated plateau about one kilometre north of Highway 401, which should be high enough to shield it from travellers, but they promised to review the visibility concerns.

“Everything on this site will be under eight- to 10-foot heights, so there wouldn’t really be any view impact from the highway,” development spokesperson Tracy Tucker told the committee.

The public meeting also heard environmental concerns stemming from the storage of scrap vehicles, and the potential for motor vehicle fluids draining into the nearby Little Cat Conservation Area, Cataraqui River or municipal sewers.

However, staff indicated the scrapyard includes a de-pollution process to remove vehicle fluids and other environmental safeguards to protect against waste runoff.

Area resident and business owner Mike Gibson submitted a letter to the committee expressing concern about the metal recycling and automobile recycling development’s impact on noise, traffic, lighting and visibility.

“We are disappointed to see that such an operation would be considered on the highest elevation in the city of Kingston, hence being an eyesore for those coming and leaving our beautiful city.”

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The planning committee has not yet made a decision on the rezoning application, though planners indicated that it does conform to the city’s development policies.

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