When it comes to strong and comprehensive planning regulations designed to protect and preserve Kitchener’s older, established neighbourhoods, I don’t like weasel words like “flexibility.”
Which is why this downtown councillor joined Coun. John Gazzola to recently oppose a recent change to an important planning policy document titled Residential Intensification in Established Neighbourhoods (RIENS).
After more than 400 residents attended RIENS public meetings and expressed their views, a consultant and city planners brought the RIENS study to council with a recommendation protecting older communities from development that could have a detrimental impact on the existing character of any street. Key points of the recommendation included heights and setbacks of any proposed new house in order for it to fit into an established street character.
When council heard predictable objections from developers and some councillors, that word “flexible” surfaced.
After Planning Committee Chairman Paul Singh and Community Services Chairman Bil Ioannidis declared conflicts of interest and didn’t vote, council unanimously voted to accept the RIENS report.
But Mayor Berry Vrbanovic along with Councillors Sarah Marsh, Kelly Galloway-Sealock, Yvonne Fernandes, Scott Davey, Zyg Janecki, and Dave Schneider also voted in favour of an added recommendation.
It said: “That additional flexibility be explored for building height and front yard setbacks through the city’s upcoming Comprehensive review of the Zoning bylaw (CROZBY).
When I unsuccessfully argued against the added recommendation, I emphasized council risked creating justified cynicism after encouraging more than 400 people to participate in RIENS only to dilute their wishes with use of that waffling word “flexible.”
Pro-development supporters of the added recommendation insisted council could include flexibility as planners reviewed zoning requirements in CROZBY.
No doubt. But when “flexible” rules are applied, what will be the impact on established neighbourhoods?
Perhaps when CROZBY comes to council, some of the 400 RIENS participants should attend the meeting and pose that question.