° Late last night, with a gallery full of residents and inner-city neighbourhood-association representatives, Kitchener councillors agreed to defer a decision on the Breithaupt proposal in a 7-3 vote. The move gives residents, planners and the developer until June 25 to make the proposal more compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood.
What could be more cynical than Kitchener councillors encouraging residents to collaborate in neighbourhood planning and then ignoring their suggestions.
In addition, what could be more distasteful than have the same councillors turn their backs on their “Love My ‘hood” policy carefully crafted by the city in order to boost resident engagement in creating quality neighbourhoods.
Until the deferral, most Kitchener councillors were in the midst of doing both by trying to ram through the third phase of the architecturally spectacular Breithaupt block development adjacent to the Light Rail Transit hub near King and Victoria.
The phase includes a 12-storey office tower and five-storey, above-ground parking garage. It is surrounded on three sides by an older, established residential neighbourhood on Breithaupt and Wellington streets as well as part of Moore Avenue.
Neighbourhood residents had collaborated with city planners in forming the Central PARTS plan which suggested the 60-metre-high Breithaupt office building go no higher than 14 metres and low-rise development should be built next to Wellington homes.
At Monday’s council meeting, with the support of numerous well-informed delegates, I succeeded at winning a deferral on the issue that failed at an earlier planning committee. Couns. Scott Davey, Paul Singh and Bil Ioannidis continued to vote against any deferral.
The neighbourhood would normally have been represented by downtown Coun. Sarah Marsh, but, because of Ontario’s vague Conflict of Interest legislation, she acted on legal advice to not participate in the one of her ward’s most important issues because she lives within 120 metres of the site.
Among other things, residents remain unhappy their suggestions are being ignored. They want a lower office tower and don’t want to be staring at the parking structure. They are also unhappy some homes will be deprived of sunlight because of the development by Perimeter Development Corp.
Residents of this and other established communities should recognize that the troubling Breithaupt issue is not over yet and further support will be needed.
I hope they pack our council chamber for the June 25 council meeting where the plan will be reconsidered.
Then, with the October municipal election in mind, remember how the mayor and each councillor votes on such a precedent-setting issue.