Fur already flying on proposal to license cats

Based on the reaction I’m getting from feline owners, I probably shouldn’t joke about cat licenses forming part of a perfect solution.

But licenses would help pay some of the $630,000 it will cost Kitchener taxpayers in each of the next four years as our Humane Society grapples with caring for hundreds of cats that, on any day, make up more than half their workload.

Kitchener recently almost doubled the $330,000 it paid for Humane Society services for cats, dogs and other strays in 1917 and I believe the current $630,000 annual price will top $1 million by 2019 as our population increases.

I should quickly add that I prefer cats to dogs but believe, in the name of fairness, it’s time we followed other cities by correcting the fact a dog owner is required to pay $30 a year for a license while a cat owner pays nothing.

Those cities include Guelph, Stratford, London, Mississauga, Sudbury, Ottawa, Peterborough, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal where councils had the guts to stand up to the yowling  push back from cat owners.

And I’m not suggesting cat owners will be any better than dog owners when it comes to licensing pets — only a third of Kitchener dog owners buy licenses — but I do think cat licenses would help offset those alarming costs.

Microchipping is another alternative to licensing that Humane Society officials say would help them reunite cat owners with pets. But I doubt many cat lovers would want microchips inserted under the skin of beloved kitties and those that do could have necessary surgery done for about $20 in addition to paying for a license.

I also believe council’s financial priorities are totally out of whack when we consider animal costs and those millions would be better invested helping seniors and low-income families having difficulty paying municipal taxes and soaring utility costs.

 

Posted in cat licenses | 4 Comments

Council votes to demolish Victoria Park heritage homes

Seven councillors last night ignored their own heritage staff by voting to demolish two Victoria Park homes that could have provided much-needed housing for low-income  families.
Despite opposition from those staff members, some Victoria Park residents and architectural-conservancy experts, council voted 7-4 to allow regional government to bulldoze the 90-year-old Queen Street homes near Schneider Avenue in order to expand the Schneider Haus facility.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic as well as Councillors Sarah Marsh, Dave Schnider, Paul Singh, Scott Davey, Bill Ioannidis and Kelly Galloway-Sealock voted in favour of demolishing the houses. Opposing the demolitions, I was supported by Councillors John Gazzola, Yvonne Fernandes and Zyg Janecki.
A key point in the debate involved whether the demolitions would create what heritage officials argued could set “a dangerous precedent” in Victoria Park or any other heritage district in Kitchener. That precedent would involve any developer who buys homes in heritage districts and then seeks to demolish the properties and erect alternate buildings.
Those supporting the demolitions to make way for an additional Schneider Haus garden rejected my attempt to defer issue until the Region could take time to investigate options other than demolition.
They also dismissed my arguments that the homes could provide emergency shelter for a few of the hundreds of refugee families arriving each year at nearby Reception House in Victoria Park.
Meanwhile, those homes will be flattened at a time when the region — our emergency-housing provider — has about 10,000 adults, children and seniors languishing for years on a waiting list for affordable housing.

Posted in Heritage, Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Queen Street renewal, refugee crisis, Victoria Park | Leave a comment

Region says get lost on direct Iron Horse Trail link

Regional councillors continued to stumble toward finding a route for a $2-million proposed link between the Iron Horse Trail and the transit hub on King Street West near Victoria Street at a planning committee meeting yesterday.
Committee members including Kitchener’s regional councillors followed the direction of regional staff and supported a bewildering route through the Cherry Park community that exits the popular trail near Gage Street.
The route will go through Raddatz Park, along Waverly Road to Strange Street, through Cherry Park, down a Park Street sidewalk to Kitchener’s Bramm Street parking lot and continue adjacent to a rail line until it reaches the transit hub.
The mangled route was supported  instead of a direct link adjacent to the CN rail track earlier favoured by Kitchener staff and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
The Iron Horse trail is used by about 1,730 cyclists and pedestrians every day and the indirect route is recommended for two ill-conceived reasons.
* To qualify for a $1.3-million infrastructure grant offered by the higher levels of  government. Construction deadline for that grant is March 2018 but it is likely to be extended to March 2019.
* Nightmare bureaucratic difficulties any time local government tries to work with CN and the Goderich-Exeter Railway that usually takes  years to negotiate
And while I understand the reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that if regional councillors want to do the project right and have people actually use the link, the best action would be to use the federal and provincial grant toward a down payment for the direct route .
A final regional council decision is expected later this month and I would suggest trail users attend the meeting or contact their regional councillors to make known their opinions.

Posted in Cherry Park, Greener City, Iron Horse Trail, Light Rail Transit, Sidewalks, Transit | Leave a comment

Victoria Park heritage homes facing demolition

Kitchener councillors will now decide if regional government will be allowed to bulldoze two Queen Street houses near Joseph Schneider Haus.

They will do so after the city’s heritage committee voted 6-2 yesterday to reject a proposal by their own heritage and planning staff to save the houses.

Two of the three Kitchener councillors who sit on the city’s heritage committee — Paul Singh and Bil Ioannidis — voted to scrap their own staff recommendation. Ioannidis also chaired the meeting where the current committee chair, vice chair and several committee members were absent.

The boarded-up, 90-year-old houses the Region want to demolish are located at the bottom of Schneider Avenue and form part of the supposedly protected Victoria Park heritage conservation district.

The Region has owned the houses for 28 years but has done nothing to add them to the Schneider Haus property. The Region also did nothing when it had the opportunity to exempt the houses from the neighbourhood heritage district created in the mid-1990s.

In my opinion, if the Region now succeeds at demolishing the houses, it will set what Kitchener heritage officials describe as “a dangerous precedent” in what represents one of the city’s most beautiful communities

That precedent could involve any developer who buys one or more homes in the Victoria Park neighbourhood and announces he or she wants to flatten the properties and build something else. The developer could then point to the Region’s demolitions and use them as justification for circumventing city heritage regulations.

At a time when the Region has at least 10,000 seniors, adults and children on a waiting list for affordable housing, the emergency-housing provider argues the two homes are unsuitable for low-cost shelter.

They claim the houses cost too much to maintain to which I argue the region should sell or  rent the properties. They would be worth about $1million if sold and that cash could, among other things, be used to upgrade Schneider Haus.

If you want to comment on the issue I would strongly suggest you register to speak and attend the Oct. 16 council meeting.

I will vote in support our excellent staff report but, considering the obvious politics at work and the fact Mayor Berry Vrbanovic also supports the Region’s proposal, I predict the two homes — big enough to house several large families — will be flattened.

Posted in Greener City, Heritage, Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Queen Street renewal, Victoria Park, Ward News | Leave a comment

Schneider’s site sold to London developer

The massive former Schneider’s site adjacent to Light Rail Transit in Kitchener’s Mill-Courtland community has been bought by London developer Auburn Developments and will be developed during the next seven years..
When developed fully developed the site will become Kitchener’s largest housing development, an urban village sprawling over 11 hectares (27.6 acres) of property.
Preliminary plans for the development were announced this morning after the site stood empty for three years..
Auburn is known locally as the developer of the upscale Arrow Lofts on Benton Street, Kitchener and Barrel Yards in Waterloo.
The Schneider site is likely to eventually accommodate more than 2,000 housing units next to the LRT on Borden Avenue.
Now the sale is complete, here’s hoping councillors, planners and developers will make certain the highest standards of urban design are used on a development where Schneider’s first established its historic meat-packing plant 91 years ago.
Auburn is considering a mix of residential, light commercial and other uses on the site which has 750,000 square feet of vacant industrial and office possibilities as well as 150,000 square feet of converted commercial space..
Some existing buildings will be demolished while the office structure and warehouse could be converted for other uses. Planners are looking at a mix of residential, commercial and institutional and office use along Courtland. The site has 750,000 square feet of vacant industrial and office space as well as 150,000 square feet of converted commercial space.
Preferred plans include medium and high-rise residential uses at the back of the site complete with innovation employment sites and possibilities for a brewpub, retail and restaurants.
However, because of construction and location difficulties, I’m disappointed that Schneider’s Creek, currently buried under the site, does not look as though it will be naturalized and unearthed.
There’s also no indication the village will include any subsidized,affordable housing.
But I’m working on it because I can’t think of a more appropriate legacy to Schneider’s than to see some housing affordability on a site where thousands of working people and families found jobs, sometimes jobs that lasted a lifetime.

Posted in Greener City, Light Rail Transit, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Schneider's site | Tagged | 1 Comment

Iron Horse Trail users won’t use complex regional link to transit hub

Regional councillors continued to stumble toward finding a route for a $2-million proposed link between the Iron Horse Trail and the transit hub on King Street West near Victoria Street at a planning committee meeting yesterday.
Committee members including Kitchener’s regional councillors followed the direction of regional staff and supported a bewildering route through the Cherry Park community that exits the popular trail near Gage Street.
The route will go through Raddatz Park, along Waverly Road to Strange Street, through Cherry Park, down a Park Street sidewalk to Kitchener’s Bramm Street parking lot and continue adjacent to a rail line until it reaches the transit hub.
The mangled 1.3-kilometre route was supported  instead of a direct link adjacent to the CN rail track earlier favoured by Kitchener staff and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.
The Iron Horse trail is used by about 1,730 cyclists and pedestrians every day and the indirect route is being recommended for two ill-conceived reasons.
* To qualify for a $1.3-million infrastructure grant offered by the higher levels of  government. Construction deadline for that grant is March 2018 but it is likely to be extended to March 2019.
* Nightmare bureaucratic difficulties any time local government tries to work with CN and the Goderich-Exeter Railway that usually takes  years to negotiate
And while I understand the reasoning, it doesn’t change the fact that if regional councillors want to do the project right and have people actually use the link, the best action would be to use the federal and provincial grant toward a down payment for that direct route alongside the rail track.
A final regional council decision is expected later this month and I would strongly suggest trail users attend the meeting or contact their regional councillors.

Posted in Cherry Park, Iron Horse Trail, Light Rail Transit, Neighbourhoods, Transit | 2 Comments

Invest in city, give Queen-King Streets the royal treatment

Combining imaginative planning vision with quality design in order to boost and create downtown revitalization is always expensive but Kitchener has already proved the cost is worth the investment.

Which is why I support a dynamic $1.8-million city proposal in 2019 to upgrade Queen Street between Charles and Duke Streets on both sides of King.

It’s also why, at municipal budget time next year, this councillor would be willing to do the job properly and, if necessary, invest as much as double the anticipated price for the overdue renewal project.

I think project planners and councillors should aim higher and have the courage and foresight to dream bigger.

At council committee this week I was pleased to see eight councillors tentatively support the proposal while the tiresome trio of negative nellies— Yvonne Fernandes, Zyg Janecki and John Gazzola — expressed customary opposition to spending cash on the future health of the downtown which, to me, represents the beating heart of our city.

Still, I remain nervous about the half-hearted support displayed by some councillors who, one eye on votes in the 2018 municipal election, might dilute the vibrancy of the proposed renewal by nickel and diming an excellent project.

Despite that price tag, the plan has my support because I continue to see results of the economic boom in the west-end innovation district originally financed after councillors made a courageous decision in 2004 to support a $110-million loan over 10 years to pump new life into an area further boosted by Light rail Transit. I also see the development and gradual financial return on cash spent by the city to renew King Street.

On Queen, major street infrastructure work  was already planned and budgeted for 2019 and this proposal represents  a more efficient way of using taxpayer cash. The project would also provide an interesting pedestrian stroll between  LRT stations on Charles and Duke.

On the price tag issue, part of the cost of the upgrade could be shared by higher levels of government, Kitchener’s Downtown Business Improvement Area as well as core developers who have already invested millions in the area including an upcoming residential-retail and office project that will soon replace the shabby American Hotel block at Queen and King.

Included in the heritage-preserving proposal:

° Redesign of the Vogelsang Green at Duke-Queen complete with a natural amphitheatre, a new parkette-water area at Charles-Queen, renewal of Halls and Goudies Lanes, green walls, more bike racks, decorative paving, street murals, string and globe lighting.

Posted in Arts & Culture, Budget, Greener City, Heritage, Light Rail Transit, Queen Street renewal, Vibrant Downtown | 1 Comment

Time to speak out on Victoria Park heritage hassle

I hope Kitchener councillors and heritage officials have the backbone to stand up to blatantly arrogant regional heritage colleagues who are determined to demolish two quality homes on Queen Street just south of Joseph Schneider Haus.
And in early fall when the self-involved Region comes to Kitchener council seeking permission to flatten the houses, I hope residents join me in opposing the ill-conceived proposal.
The boarded-up, 90-year-old houses the Region want to demolish are located at the bottom of Schneider Avenue and form part of the supposedly protected Victoria Park heritage conservation district.
The Region has owned the houses for 28 years but has done nothing to add them to the Schneider Haus property. The Region also did nothing when it had the opportunity to exempt the houses from the neighbourhood heritage district created in the mid-1990s.
In my opinion, if the Region now succeeds at demolishing the houses, it will set what Kitchener’s co-ordinator of heritage planning Leon Bensason describes as “a dangerous precedent” in what represents one of the city’s most beautiful communities
That precedent could involve any developer who buys one or more homes in the Victoria Park neighbourhood and announces he or she wants to flatten the properties and build something else. The developer would then point to the Region’s demolitions and use them as justification for circumventing city heritage regulations.
Dealing with this property issue in confidence during recent years, Kitchener has consistently told the Region it opposes the demolitions. Regional officials waited until Kitchener councillors, city heritage committee members and many residents went on July vacations before going public with the proposal and rushing to organize public information meetings.
Then, at a time when the Region has at least 10,000 seniors, adults and children on a waiting list for affordable housing, the Region insisted the two homes are unsuitable for low-cost shelter.
They claim the houses cost too much to maintain to which I argue the region should sell or continue to rent the properties. They would be worth about $1million if sold and that cash could, among other things, be used to upgrade Schneider Haus.
If , like me, you live around the park, and want to sound off about the region’s self-involved proposal I would suggest you attend an open house at Schneider Haus, 466 Queen St.S. on Wednesday July 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. (presentation 6.30 p.m.) Or go to http://www.engageregionofwaterloo.ca/.
And whatever you think, don’t count on the local media for fair, balanced coverage of an important issue that has to date produced predictably shallow, one-sided regional arguments on the topic.

Posted in Heritage, Homelessness, Journalism, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Victoria Park | 4 Comments

Heritage hassle, Jubilee crossing and condo at Nougat site

Out with the old and in with the new.
That seems to be the situation in and around Victoria Park where, in recent weeks, a considerable amount seems to be happening.
First development involves what is shaping up to be a major heritage hassle between city and regional officials.
The Region wants to flatten two houses it owns south of Joseph Schneider Haus on Queen in order to expand the heritage property and add a green garden area. However, Kitchener heritage officials oppose the proposal because they believe it represents a dangerous precedent to the residential character of the city’s existing Victoria Park heritage neighbourhood.
I have suggested in an earlier blog that the properties should be used for affordable housing.
Second development, a pedestrian crossing scheduled to be in place in August, will hopefully increase safety on Jubilee Drive near the bottom of Water Street South. After its use is studied by city traffic officials, other crossings could be added at other Jubilee locations.
Third project involves an attractive condominium development on the former Nougat Bakery site and the ugly, neighbouring auto business next to the Iron Horse Trail. The development — an 11-storey condo fronting on Queen Street dropping to a six-storey building at the rear facing David Street — will start with demolition of existing buildings. Construction is likely to continue into 2018.
I’m pleased to say it will finally clean up the junkyard adjacent to an important entrance to the trail at Queen Street. Now, we need to see the same improvements at another eyesore site where the trail crosses West Avenue.

Posted in Heritage, Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Speeding Traffic, Victoria Park | Leave a comment

Former Schneider’s site could be a beautiful urban village

Close your eyes as you stand among the ugly former Maple Leaf-Schneider’s buildings between Courtland Avenue and Mill Street and imagine a gurgling creek flowing through a green, urban village.
That’s the preferred planning vision for the huge 11-hectare (27-acre) site which can accommodate about 3,000 housing units next to the Light Rail Transit tracks at Borden Avenue.
It’s a vision that was on display at a recent public information and one I would like to see start moving towards reality early this fall.
By September I hope councillors, planners and developers will make certain the highest standards of urban design are used on a development where Schneider’s first established its historic meat-packing plant 91 years ago.
Planners are considering a mix of residential, light commercial and other uses on the site.
Some existing buildings will be demolished but I assume the office structure and warehouse could be converted for other uses. Planners are looking at a mix of residential, commercial and institutional and office use along Courtland.
Preferred plans include medium and high-rise residential uses at the back of the site complete with innovation employment sites and possibilities for a brewpub and restaurants.
Best of all on that planning wish list is that Schneider’s Creek, currently buried under the site, could be naturalized and unearthed to create an attractive greenway meandering through what might be dubbed Schneider Village.
All we need as part of such a dream would be some affordable housing.

Posted in Ward News | 2 Comments