Looking Back at 2017

2017 Highlights

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is coming to a close. It’s been quite the year! Here are a few highlights that come to mind:

  • The Third Crossing – after 50 years of debate and discussion, City Council approved the construction of the new bridge. If we can secure the remaining $60 million in federal funding soon, we will be able to get shovels in the ground in early 2019.
  • Feihe Groundbreaking – construction of Feihe’s new $225 million production and research facility is underway in the city’s west end business park. The plant is projected to open in early 2019 and will mean hundreds of new jobs in Kingston.
  • Mayor’s Innovation Challenge – after a great launch this fall I’m very excited about the level of interest among post-secondary students in Kingston. Teams will compete for a paid internship next summer to implement their innovation to make the city better.
  • Kingston Pen Tours – how exciting to see over 100,000 visitors come through KP this year. The tours helped make this the biggest year ever for tourism in Kingston, and we were able to raise $800,000 for the United Way to help eliminate youth homelessness.
  • Breakwater Park – we broke ground on a new vision for this great waterfront park, including a new pier for swimming – the Gordon Edgar Downie Pier.
  • Providence Care Hospital – it was very exciting to see the opening of this new state of the art facility, putting Kingston on the leading edge of health care innovation in the province.

There’s no question that 2017 was a great year for Kingston, but I’m even more excited for what’s coming in 2018! I’ll have more updates to share on what’s ahead in January, but until then, Merry Christmas and safe and happy holidays to all!

Merry Christmas

From the Mayor’s Chair – December 19th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

At the December 19th Council meeting one of the big items of discussion was over the city’s pet licensing system. The city has been working with Docupet, a company with an online system for registration, and the system has seen an unprecedented growth in pets registered and animals safely returned to owners. Council also raised a number of questions and concerns to ensure privacy of information and also to ensure the right balance in messaging in communicating to residents the importance of registering their pets. Last night Council also received an update from discussions with the province over the siting of a cannabis retail store opening in Kingston later next year. The expectation is that the location of the store will be announced early next year, likely in an existing commercial plaza. Finally, last night council received information from staff on the potential introduction of a rental licensing system after looking at other programs in other cities across the province.

Watch the December 19th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Why We Need More Housing in Kingston

CMHC Vacancy Rates

We recently learned that Kingston now has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the entire province. The graph above is from the 2017 Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) report and shows that the vacancy rate in Kingston is just 0.7%, which is now lower than anywhere in the Greater Toronto area. This compares to last year when the vacancy rate was a much healthier 2.6%.

This new data shows the urgency for more housing in Kingston, whether it be new homes, condos or apartments. Without new housing, prices for homes and condos and rental rates for apartments will continue to rise quickly and it will be more difficult to find a place to live in the city. Multiple offers and sales above listing price are becoming increasingly common in the Kingston housing market and there are no signs that the pressure is going to let up. New residential developments in all parts of the city are needed if we are going to keep Kingston as an affordable place to live, work and play for everyone.

The city did get some good news this week when the Ontario Municipal Board approved the new University Suites development at the corner of University and Princess Streets. This development was actually approved several years ago, but has been stuck in the OMB appeal process until this week. The photo below shows what this project will look like when completed.

Development University Suites

If the city is going to avoid further suburban sprawl, we will have to make quick progress with new infill developments across all areas of the city. I strongly believe that we can effectively address the current housing situation in Kingston by being smart, proactive and making housing across our city a priority as we move into 2018.

The Inaugural Mayor’s Arts Awards

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This week I was thrilled to present the first ever Mayor’s Arts Awards and recognize the contributions of five tremendous artists in our community. This exciting new event has been a number of years in the making, as a way to celebrate Kingston’s arts and culture scene and to raise the profile of great artistic talent in our community. There is no question that for a city of its size, Kingston punches way above its weight in both the quality and the diversity of our local arts and culture. This development in the arts hasn’t happened by accident; it’s been driven by a host of talented, entrepreneurial artists, musicians, producers and arts champions in our city. The Mayor’s Arts Awards is one way that we can recognize their efforts in building the cultural vitality of our city.

Here are the five winners of this year’s awards. Take a moment to watch the great videos profiling each of the artists who have contributed so much to Kingston’s arts and culture.

Armand Garnet Ruffo – A Queen’s University National Scholar in Indigenous Literature, Ruffo’s award-winning works include plays, film and books of prose and poetry. His collection, The Thunderbird Poems (2015), was inspired by the art of Norval Morisseau.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKkaiLCrFlM

Su Sheedy – Known for her use of colour and texture in her paintings, Sheedy’s work has been exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Prince Edward County as well as Kingston. With projects like the Shoreline Shuffle, Sheedy has used art to help highlight the need to conserve and improve access to waterways.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzTOe7yhrJE

Matt Rogalsky – A founding member of The Gertrudes, composer and multi-media artist Rogalsky, is also the force behind The Tone Deaf Festival of Experimental sound and sits on the board of the Skeleton Park Arts Festival.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIT4-J4y9pY

Yessica Rivera Belsham – Drawing on her passion for her Mexican heritage, Yessica facilitates performance workshops, cultural and wellness events that feature painting, drawing, sculpture, jewelry design, sewing, drumming and singing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okk6Pb6Xxv0

David Kemp – The artistic director of the Frontenac Children’s Teacher’s Theatre Company and co-founder of Artists in Community Education program brought the arts into Kingston classrooms, inspiring generations of youth.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OlEpLvBntY

From the Mayor’s Chair – December 5th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

The December 5th Council meeting began with a land deal between the City and Podium Developments. This is good news for the downtown as it will expand the supply of parkland in the core of the city. Council also approved a contract with WSP Canada Group to begin work on the new central Kingston growth and infill strategy. This is a plan to deal with the increasing number of monster additions to family homes as a way to provide more student housing around Queen’s and St. Lawrence College. The work is expected to take 18 months and will lead to a very different zoning framework to help deal with the pressure on student housing.

Watch the December 5th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Preparing for an Exciting Year Ahead: The 2018 Budget

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This is budget week at City Hall. After two nights of presentations and deliberations, City Council approved the proposed city budget for 2018. The budget includes spending forecasts for all city departments and also a range of city funded agencies; everything from the library board to policing to tourism and economic development.

I’m happy to see that the draft 2018 budget respects the limits imposed by council, with a proposed property tax rate increase capped at 1.5% for operating costs plus the annual 1% levy for infrastructure. It’s essential that we live within our means. Holding property tax rate increases to the rate of inflation is an important way to do that. I’m a big proponent of growth and development as a way to limit tax increases, and this year thanks to a $2 million plus expansion in the city’s tax base, we can hold tax increases to inflation and still make important investments in key projects like the Third Crossing, more transit routes and other enhancements to city services.

This is also the last year of our term as City Council and it’s important that we finish up important work that we pledged to do, as we continue to make Kingston a Smart and Livable 21st Century City. To that end, here are a few of the highlights from the 2018 budget:

  • Kingston East Community Centre – $10.5 million
  • Montreal Street Express Transit Route
  • Investment of $2 million to support new affordable housing
  • Kingston East Library Expansion
  • Operational support for the new Rideau Heights Community Centre

In the coming year we’ll also see the final phase of reconstructing Princess Street (Big Dig 4), the completion of the North King’s Town Secondary Plan (exploring alternatives to the Wellington Street Extension) and the start of construction of the new bridge over the rail tracks on John Counter Boulevard. Overall, it’s looking like another exciting and busy year ahead!

 

A New National Housing Strategy: Hopeful News for Affordable Housing in Kingston

Affordable Housing 1

I was heartened this week to hear the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new national housing strategy that will provide billions of dollars for affordable housing across the country. Expanding the supply of affordable housing here in Kingston is both a personal priority and a key element in City Council’s strategic plan. There’s no question that affordable housing is important to our community, but it is also very expensive.

One important point that I have raised with both provincial and federal officials is that Kingston needs more funding, not just to expand the supply of affordable housing in our community, but also to maintain the existing stock of housing. There are a couple of exciting affordable housing projects on the horizon, at 7 Wright Crescent (see above) and at 671 Brock Street (see below). However, there are also many affordable housing developments in the city that are aging quickly and need investment from upper levels of government to make sure that we don’t lose old housing units as we work to add new ones.

The launch of a national housing strategy is an important first step, but there’s still a lot of work remaining. The next step in the national housing strategy will see the federal government negotiate with each of the provinces to bring in additional provincial funding and to work out more details on allocating dollars across communities. I’m looking forward to learning more about these details and about what investments will be made in affordable housing here in Kingston.

Affordable Housing 2

 

From the Mayor’s Chair – November 21st

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

The November 21st Council meeting began with a recommendation from staff to begin some preparatory work on the Third Crossing with the hope that a decision on federal funding for the bridge could come in the next few months. Another item discussed at length was the proposal for a two year grant to go to Innovate Kingston. Council voted to approve just one year of funding and to evaluate progress before deciding on funding for a second year. Finally, council received a presentation from the province on plans for the new Wolf Island ferry terminal. The province committed to a second ferry that will run between Kingston and Wolf Island by 2020 and an expanded dock and new terminal building. Given Council’s decision to explore the potential for a deep water dock right next door, an expanded terminal and a deep water dock has the potential to transform this prime stretch of waterfront.

Watch the November 21st edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Deep Water Dock

Queen Dock 1

A question I’ve heard often over the years is if it’s possible to have a deep water dock that would allow cruise ships traveling through the Great Lakes to stop in Kingston. I think Kingston would be a very attractive place for cruise ships to land for a day. Every cruise ship would mean hundreds of tourists an afternoon to shop and visit restaurants in our downtown, which would provide a big boost to our local economy.

At our last meeting, City Council voted to explore the possibility of building the existing Queen Street dock into a deep water port for cruise ships. Some preliminary analysis from staff suggested smaller cruise ships would be able to dock at Crawford Wharf at the bottom of Brock Street, but larger cruise ships would require a new, longer dock. The best spot for a new dock would be as close to the downtown core as possible, and so the Queen Street dock seems like an ideal location.

This is also the perfect time to look at the future of the underutilized Queen Street dock as the province is now moving forward with a plan to expand and revitalize the Wolfe Island ferry terminal next door. This expansion is designed to accommodate a second ferry that is scheduled to be added between Kingston and Wolfe Island in 2020. What’s really exciting is that a new ferry terminal combined with a deep water dock for cruise ships could completely transform this part of Kingston’s waterfront into something incredible, both for residents and tourists.

There’s still lots of work to be done on this, including market analysis to understand what the potential demand for cruise ship landings might be in Kingston, but I for one think this is a great opportunity for the city, both to attract more tourists and to improve our waterfront!

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From the Mayor’s Chair – November 7th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

One of the big topics on the agenda at the November 7th Council meeting was the potential for a deep water dock for cruise ships. Council decided to move ahead with the plan to look deeper at this possibility and also do more market analysis to understand what the cruise ship industry could mean for tourism in Kingston. Council also heard a presentation from the Association of Municipalities Ontario on a province wide push to increase the HST by 1% in order to fund infrastructure needs for cities and town across the province. Kingston currently funds its infrastructure needs out of a 1% property tax levy. Council decided to endorse the plan but also agreed that should the 1% increase in HST ever happen, that the City would then look at reducing or eliminating the 1% property tax levy. Finally, Council passed a motion to make naloxone kits available in all city facilities and to endorse further distribution in partnership with KFL&A public health.

Watch the November 7th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE