Everyone has a role to play in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.  It takes work but everything is easier when we work together.

Earlier this year, Council directed staff to explore ways to reduce single use plastics at two City-owned facilities, including the Grand Theatre and the INVISTA Centre to start.  Single-use plastics include items like water bottles, straws, cutlery, cups, stir sticks, grocery bags, coffee pods, take-out containers, food packaging and more.  Every day we hear more about how plastic is accumulating in our oceans and lakes, and getting harder to find buyers that can turn recycling into new products.  It’s a problem that’s hard to solve because plastics were invented, in part, to make life more convenient so the habits we’ve developed are hard to break.

Going to the theatre, like many other activities, generates a surprising amount of waste.  Each year, the Grand Theatre welcomes thousands of people who enjoy a drink, have a pop or buy candy.  We also hand out brochures and playbills that hopefully get recycled and people use paper towels that go in the garbage and end up in landfill.  The Grand Theatre might not be the worst offender but it never hurts to lead by example so we’re happy to be the first facility within the City of Kingston to move toward eliminating single use plastics.

Single-use plastics graphic










Over the past six months, staff have researched what other performing arts venues are doing to reduce waste and we’ve installed fountain drink machines as a way to replace plastic pop bottles.  We’ve also started using compostable cups and paper straws and have eliminated snacks with plastic wrappers.  We’ve also replaced our garbage bins and the more immediately recognizable recycling bins with new containers specifically designed for gathering compostable cups from the bar and paper like playbills.  This has involved a steep learning curve for us and now the task ahead is to work with our patrons to help them, help us divert our waste away from landfills.

One of the biggest challenges in this moment is learning to tell the difference between traditional plastics made of petrochemicals and the newer plant-based plastics that look similar but that are fully compostable when disposed of with the help of a commercial composter.  For the first time, we have introduced an organic waste program at the Grand Theatre and all the cups being handed out at the bar are made of plant-based plastics so they are fully compostable.  So the trick now is getting people to put them in the green bin when habit says to put them in the blue box like you do with plastics at home.   

It won’t be an easy task but at the Grand Theatre our staff and volunteer ushers are ready to help patrons make the transition and we are excited about the move.  My colleague Dianne Zemba, the Grand Theatre Manager has been leading this work and has shared the following: “We have started to train our staff and our volunteer ushers to ensure that our audience members understand why this is important and where to place their waste at the end of the show.  It’s exciting to know the quality of the theatre experience will stay the same but that we will be reducing our waste to landfill significantly going forward.”

We’re also trying to reduce any waste at all!  The next time you visit the Grand Theatre don’t hesitate to ask for help and we also encourage you to bring a reusable water bottle we will gladly refill and we’re also offering coffee and tea for $1.00 (plus taxes) if you bring a reusable mug.  All other beverages will be served in sturdy cups that can be taken into the theatre and then composted at the end of the night using the green bins you’ll find in the lobby.  We also ask that you recycle your playbill and dispose of your paper towel in the green bins provided – those can be composted as well!

We’re excited to be making these changes and we hope you’ll enjoy the shows you see at the Grand Theatre even more knowing we’re working together to reduce waste to landfill.

You can find out more about the City of Kingston’s commitment to reduce single use plastics here

On Nov. 15, my team released the Density by Design Issues and Options Report, an overview of the City’s approach for regulating mid-rise and tall buildings with a summary of proposed options. The release of this document was immediately followed by a series of stakeholder meetings, an open house and a special committee briefing on Nov. 21. At stakeholder meetings and the open houses, staff worked with residents to collect input and provide background into the factors at play with this project.

This project is part of a concerted effort to unify Community around a variety of public interest outcomes:

  • Ensure the longevity and sustainability of the City – planning for Kingston tomorrow as well as for today and strategically aligning land-use decisions with our declaration of a Climate Change Emergency.
  • Provide housing to meet our current and future needs – ensuring that all residents have access to a range of housing solutions that are well designed and affordable. 
  • Promote a vital and vibrant downtown – supporting Downtown Kingston’s unique atmosphere and ensuring its vibrancy long-term by developing a plan that enables our downtown to densify.
  • Pursue a City design that focuses on and promotes multi-modal living with the pedestrian experience guiding decisions – providing residents with safe, sustainable transportation options to explore their city.
  • Foster an “open for business” culture and reputation – ensuring that Kingston continues to be a community of choice for residents, employers and visitors.

With these considerations in mind, I’m confident that we can work together to help establish mid-rise and tall building policies that work for Kingston.

Engagement sessions have continued through this week and the project team is working to compile the feedback collected from these sessions. While we heard a great deal of excitement at the prospect of cross-community participation to help plan how our City grows, we also heard that residents wanted more opportunities to explore the Issues and Options Report in greater detail.

At 48 pages, the Issues and Options Report is certainly a complex document. The report discusses 16 different aspects of building design,many of which either build on subject matter expertise and in some cases introduce entirely new design considerations to the City of Kingston.

We want to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to join this important conversation.

As a result of this feedback, the Density by Design project team has decided to extend the commenting period until Jan. 31, 2020, and add additional public engagement opportunities for residents over the coming weeks. We plan to have an updated project schedule prepared shortly and will broadly communicate about upcoming engagement sessions. 

Join the conversation

Public feedback is absolutely critical in helping guide the development of these policies. If you haven’t already, consider joining the conversation by doing the following:

  1. Download and review the Issues and Options Report.
  2. Watch the Nov. 21 Planning Committee briefing.
  3. Join the online discussion by contributing to the Density by Design Q&A at Get Involved Kingston.
  4. Sign up for project updates by emailing the Density by Design project manager, Andrea Gummo.

With the finalization of Council’s Strategic Plan, I wanted to provide an update on the major policy studies being undertaken by the Planning Division, which include: the Central Kingston Growth Strategy; Density by Design: Kingston Mid-Rise and Tall Building Policy; the update to the Williamsville Main Street Study; the North King’s Town Secondary Plan; and, the new City-wide Zoning By-Law.

All of the work being done by these studies presents opportunities to contribute towards realizing the priorities outlined by Council in their Strategic Plan, including: demonstrating leadership on climate action; increasing housing affordability; improving walkability, roads and transportation; strengthening economic development opportunities; and fostering healthy citizens and vibrant spaces. A staff report was presented to Council on September 17 that provided a mid-year update on the Strategic Plan.

With Council’s priorities outlined in the Strategic Plan, and the complexity of the policy planning studies that are underway, it’s been important for our department to review our resources and re-examine the timelines of the various projects.

Central Kingston Growth Strategy
The Central Kingston Growth Strategy involves the development of a policy and regulatory framework to guide infill and intensification in the central area of the city. The intended outputs of this review include Official Plan policies, zoning recommendations for the new City-wide Zoning By-Law, design guidelines, and a servicing and infrastructure plan. The project team is currently working on draft recommendations, which are anticipated to be released for public feedback in early 2020. It is anticipated that the project will be completed in the spring of 2020.

Density by Design: Kingston Mid-Rise and Tall Building Policy
The Density by Design project is intended to educate and inform residents on the basics of design features for buildings greater than four storeys, and on the importance of design in creating livable spaces that support community. This project will complement other work the City is doing to support intensification and will provide clear direction on the design of mid-rise and tall buildings in the City.

Originally, the Density by Design project intended to provide policies to direct the design of buildings taller than four storeys, without considering the “where” of those buildings. As the project team researched and began developing recommendations, we found that more and more what was needed was a limit on where such buildings could be built, in order to direct those buildings to locations where they are appropriate. As a result, this work will now present options to both direct the design of buildings taller than four storeys, as well as their permitted locations across the City.

An Issues and Options Report for Density by Design will be released on November 15, and a public open house will be held on Thursday, November 21 from 3:00-6:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall at City Hall, 216 Ontario Street. It is anticipated that the Density by Design project will be completed in the spring of 2020.

Williamsville Main Street Study Update
As part of the work for Density by Design, the City will be conducting the update to the Williamsville Main Street Study. Staff will be completing a land use planning study of the policy and zoning framework with respect to angular plane and the allowance for where taller buildings are permitted within the corridor. There will also be a detailed transportation model and study completed for the corridor and a review of the available servicing capacity.

Back in May of this year, Council passed an interim control by-law for the Williamsville Main Street corridor prohibiting the intensification of lands within the study area with anything in excess of what is permitted by the current zoning by-law. This was to allow time for the work outlined above to be completed, without the submission of any applications for large-scale developments that are not already in keeping with the requirements of the zoning by-law.

The Planning Act permits interim control by-laws to be in place for one year, with the possibility of an additional one year extension. Given this tight timeframe, it is important that the work for the Williamsville Main Street proceed as quickly as possible. The work is being managed by staff in the Planning Division, with support from staff in Transportation Services and a team from Dillon Consulting for the Williamsville transportation model. This work has been incorporated into the scope of the Density by Design Issues and Options Report and will be proceeding as part of this project.

North King’s Town (NKT) Secondary Plan
The North King's Town Secondary Plan for the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Areas of the city just north of the downtown involves the completion of a number of technical studies. Work has already been undertaken for NKT on a draft land use and density plan and a draft cultural heritage study, as well as some of the required transportation modelling for the NKT transportation plan. Some of the early results from the NKT transportation work were used to remove the southern portion of the proposed Wellington Street Extension from the recent update to the City’s Development Charges By-Law.

The staff and consulting team that is working on the NKT transportation model is also the same team that is responsible for the work being done for the Williamsville transportation model. Re-focusing our efforts on Williamsville in the short term to meet the timelines associated with the interim control by-law will unfortunately mean that the transportation work, and subsequently the revised land use plan, for the NKT Secondary Plan will be on hold for a little while. However, work will continue on finalizing the cultural heritage study for NKT, as well as the draft servicing study.

New City-wide Zoning By-Law
The City has five zoning by-laws covering various portions of the municipality. These by-laws were prepared in the 1970s and 1990s, before amalgamation in 1998. The City is in the process of preparing a new City-wide Zoning By-Law to consolidate, update and replace the separate, outdated zoning by-laws. The zoning framework will support the realization of the vision for growth established within the City's Official Plan. The first draft of the new City-wide Zoning By-Law was released to the public in October 2016. It is anticipated that the second draft will be released in 2020, followed by Council approval in 2021.

The work plans presented by these studies involve an ambitious amount of work that is being undertaken by staff in the Planning Division, along with support from staff in other City departments and a number of consulting firms. Each of the studies will be offering opportunities for members of the community to engage with the project teams and offer input and feedback on the work being done. I look forward to seeing how the work on each of these projects progresses, and would encourage anyone interested in being involved to stay engaged through the City’s Get Involved Kingston online platform.

Timber frame mid-rise buildings offer cities the ability to increase density more cost-effective buildings while also achieving a lower carbon footprint that steel and concrete construction. As we develop actions as a City in response to the declaration of a ‘climate change emergency’, timber frame buildings emerge as an important consideration.

As noted in an article by ReNew Canada, timber construction is one such material that is undergoing a revival globally, and is demonstrating its potential in a range of situations. In Canada, some of the best examples of timber construction can be seen in British Columbia. For instance, the Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia, at 18 storeys, was the tallest timber structure in the world in 2017. It used what’s being dubbed “mass timber” or “tall wood” construction, which makes use of sustainable engineered wood products including cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glulam.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has released a Tall Wood Building reference for construction of wood buildings up to six storeys, and an amendment to the National Building Code allowing for even taller wood structures is expected in 2020.

Using current mass timber construction practices for buildings up to six storeys offers a number of benefits:

  • Wood is a green building material. Wood is a renewable resource that can be locally sourced. The production of CLT produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less air and water pollution that other building materials.
  • Many will remember the midtown fire that started in a woodframe building under construction. Mass timber building products are tested for flammability. CLT, for example, must demonstrate a two-hour fire resistance rating in order to meet American Society for Testing Materials standards.
  • Mass timber buildings are cost-effective and can be constructed quickly (limiting disruption to the neighbourhood). Most importantly, wood performs better than most building materials over the lifetime of the building, resulting in potentially reduced maintenance costs.
  • Exposed wood has also been seen to lower stress and blood pressure and offer psychological benefits.

We can expect to see more mass timber structures being built in Kingston as local builders seek to enjoy these benefits and these fire-resistant wood products become more available in Ontario and will continue to monitor the national movement toward mass timbre and any legislative changes that may be coming forward in the near future.

Kingston was recently named one of the best 20 places to invest in Canada by Site Selection Magazine.

The magazine bases its choices on its database of facility investment projects pulled from across Canada. Those projects must represent at least $1 million invested, at least 20 new jobs or at least 20,000 new sq. ft. of space. That means Kingston was chosen based on the investment associated with these qualifying projects.

Many residents will realize this success is based largely on Kingston securing the Feihe Canada Royal Milk and Frulact plants. On its own, Feihe Canada Royal Milk represents $300 million in new investment in Kingston and, once it is completed, will host 350 new jobs.

Planning is just one of the factors that helped attract this foreign direct investment to our community. We are proud that Kingston was able to accommodate these businesses as it had designated areas in business parks zoned for their purposes. In other words, the City had planned to attract industry by creating areas where it could be aptly situated.

So what does it mean to be named on Site Selection Magazine’s list?  Kingston will now be featured in the International Foreign Direct Investment Summit alongside Toronto, Halifax, London (ON), Vancouver and Hamilton this October in Huzhou, China.

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