Advance polls for Kitchener’s Oct. 22 municipal election are currently taking place around the city.
Voting at one such poll, this outgoing, lame-duck councillor was thinking about what could be the first issue to test the backbone of whoever becomes the new Ward 9 downtown councillor.
It’s a complex issue involving a collision between intensification and efforts to save two heritage houses on Queen St. S. between Courtland Ave. and Joseph St. in what is part of the Victoria Park Heritage Area.
One eye on the upcoming election, a council majority that usually genuflects to developers and ignores heritage in favour of development decided recently in an 8-3 vote to save those heritage homes from bulldozers. The council decision followed lengthy and spirited presentations from residents and heritage defenders.
The three incumbent councillors currently seeking re-election who voted to flatten the 1890 homes and ignore a recommendation from Kitchener’s heritage staff to protect the historic properties were Scott Davey (Ward 1), Heritage-Committee member Paul Singh (Ward 6) and Dave Schnider (Ward 2).
Now, a meeting is scheduled for 7.30 p.m. tomorrow (Friday) night at the Downtown Community Centre to scrutinize efforts being made to intensify that eight-storey apartment-building proposal by Vive Developments. The new concept would add five or six storeys in building height and reduce parking so Vive’s profit margin could allow retention of the two houses as part of the project.
If such a plan is accepted by residents and planners, city policy demands that two thirds of the new council members support any effort to reconsider the proposal.
If the Vive project does return to council in coming months, I hope the new Ward 9 councillor refuses to join the usual pro-development council clique that has dominated recent council decisions and continues to reject demolition of both houses — one a historic home of a former Kitchener industrialist.
I also hope that our councillor tries hard to control the increased height and parking supply at a rental apartment building that, in part, would be constructed on the current site of the oneROOF shelter for homeless 12-25-year-olds that was built with the help of $1 million in community donations.
VIVE should also be held to a promise made recently by the company to help oneROOF find another suitable home and, at the new apartment complex, provide a few affordable apartments for homeless young people.