This is a very important issue and one of our residents has written a detailed and articulate article on it. Please read. Please send an email to council about it!
by Catherine Owens
The Places and Spaces report goes to Council on Monday. In essence, what this report, created by city staff says is that our neighbourhood is the most under-served in the entire city for greenspace/parks. Mt. Hope covers a huge geographical area and is immediately adjacent to the downtown. The largest deficit in greenspace/parkland is in the KW Hospital area (roughly between King and Moore) and at the outer edges of Mt. Hope – Breithaupt Park (Bridgeport/Lancaster). On average, these two areas of Mt. Hope – Breithaupt Park have about 1.4 hectares of greenspace per resident versus (for example) Country Hills who has 20 hectares per resident.
City Council, in order to attract downtown developers, have eliminated what is know as “cash in lieu” of parkland fees for all developers since 2008. Although there are very complex formulas as to what a developer has to pay to the city for parkland, on average it works out to about $15,000 per unit. So, if a developer is building a 44 storey building in downtown Kitchener with 500 units they actually save $7.5 Million in development fees. Extrapolate to the 20 projects on the books for downtown. This is pure profit to the developer and does nothing to make our neighbourhood “greener” or more liveable. It is also important to note that all developers building outside the city core have to pay this fee – and the city uses the fees to build parkland – for example the $93 Million for the aquatic centre in Huron Park.
At various committee meetings throughout the summer, there is a clear indication that a number of Councillors wish to keep the exemption in place until 2025 or 2027 (rather than the 12 months recommended by city staff). City staff have estimated that developers in the downtown are/will be saving $60 Million (yes Million) in fees if the exemption goes past the 12 month period. This means $60 Million in profit to developers and $60 Million less available to provide greenspace in our neighbourhood.
The other issue that Council will consider on Monday is POPS – the acronym is Publicly Owned Private Spaces. Some Councillors believe that developers should be given tax considerations because they are including public spaces on their development properties. The issue with this concept is that they are privately owned spaces and the city has no control over them. Think of the BB3 “parkette” which was touted as being a benefit to the neighbourhood in lieu of parkland – although not completed as yet, its nothing more than another concrete space that is actually built for Google employees and adds no greenspace to the neighbourhood.
The City has declared a climate crisis yet they are ignoring the needs of downtown residents for parkland/greenspace … the new bike lanes have no greenspace separation, buildings in the core are generally built adjacent to the side walk with not a square foot of greenspace or a single tree for residents/dogs, Victoria Park is overwhelmed with new condo dwellers . Never I have ever seen a developer in downtown advertise that they are selling units $15,000 below market value because they did not have to pay the “cash in lieu” development fee – eliminating the parkland fee is pure profit for them.
Developers in downtown/midtown have had a free ride since 2008 because they did not have to pay cash in lieu of parkland. The “free ride” needs to end – there is no longer a need for the City to attract developers to the downtown/midtown …. Developers are clamouring to build in the core and that is why they are now paying $10M to $20M per acre for downtown land. The suburban councillors, who are really not invested in our core neighbourhoods, simply see large scale developments with no green space as additional tax revenue – they are not invested, as we are, in making this a livable downtown/place to live.
So … what to do next.
- Read the Places and Spaces report which will verify the lack of green space – https://www.engagewr.ca/placesandspaces
- Write to City Council – before Monday – and let them know that extending the moratorium on waiving the cash in lieu of fees past the 12 months is not acceptable. If you want a template … at the bottom of this post is the text from the Victoria Park neighbourhood who are just as concerned about this as we are. Feel free to use any of this text to help craft your own email.
- Register as a delegate to appear at the Council meeting on Monday at 7 pm. https://www.kitchener.ca/en/council-and-city-administration/appear-as-a-delegation.aspx
- Although its easy to view Council meetings via Zoom – its important that you show up at Council on Monday – in the Council chambers – 7 pm – so Council is aware that adding green space to our neighbourhood is important
The need for parkland in our neighbourhood (and ultimately a tree canopy project in 2023) will be a way to preserve our core neighbourhood … if you love living in a Cultural Heritage Neighbourhood with lots of trees/greenspace this is your opportunity to tell City Council that they must force developers to enhance the neighbourhood and not destroy it.
If you are an advocate for better greenspace/parkland and this is all too confusing … feel free to send firstname.lastname@example.org a note on next steps.
TEXT from Victoria Park folks:
To: Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Members of Council
Date: August 2022
RE: Local Parks and Greenspaces Funding
The provision of parks by-law is under review in municipalities across the province. Many face the same problem as Kitchener in providing parks and greenspaces in neighbourhoods where intensification is the highest. We are learning that, unlike Kitchener, aggressive approaches are being taken to tackle the issue of adequate parks. In Mississauga and Burlington, for example, significant rate increases (400% or
more, which is significantly more than Kitchener staff are recommending) have recently been endorsed, with no transitional phase. In other municipalities, including some that are local, there are no cap rates placed on dense forms of development; parkland is dedicated at the provincial maximums allowed, again unlike Kitchener where a developer discount of up to 85% is provided.
I am writing to urge that when the Spaces Report comes before Council on August 22 nd 2022, you vote for changes that expedite the funding needed to address the equitable provision of local parks in our city. If you reduce the provisions for parkland funding from the targets recommended in the Spaces Report, you will exacerbate the problem created by exempting downtown developers from cash-in-lieu fees for over a decade.
There are three decisions that, if made by council, will cripple the city’s ability to address the inequity of parks provision in the city as documented in the Spaces Report:
1. A reduction to the cash-in-lieu cap rate.
2. An increase in the transition period for revoking cash-in-lieu payments for development in the downtown. (The original recommendation by city staff for a transition period of 12 months will result in an estimated $56.8 m loss of revenue for parks funding.)
3. An increase to the credit for privately owned public spaces.
Here is the opportunity for you to make decisions that build on Kitchener’s reputation as a
progressive city, one with a comprehensive agenda that goes beyond density and addresses:
● Climate change
● An abundant tree canopy
● The health and wellbeing of residents
● Walkable communities in a livable city
● Vibrant spaces
● Social inequities
● Social interaction
Now is the time to align intensification strategies with policies that create much-needed parklands, greenspaces, and tree-lined streets. I call on you to vote for the recommendations in the Spaces Report and to pass funding policies that address parkland needs of current and future Kitchener residents in all wards.