Posted by Terri Hodges
Sandy Sheahan & Donna Glasspoole were here today from SPEAKingston, an organization promoting smart development in Kingston.
John Farrow introduced Sandy Sheahan and Donna Glasspoole (his neighbor) from SPEAKingston, an organization formed to promote smart development in Kingston. This group is new but has been an idea for many years and in serious development since September 2018.
 
Donna Glasspoole has a background in media and is involved in Dress for Success and Well Suited, among many other things.  Sandy Sheahan has been involved in the Kingston Communuty Health Centre recent new builds. Sandy has a background in nursing in mental health, and she started Bethel House to assist men with mental health issues.  Sandy loves Kingston and also has worked with the city staff to trying to bring in a customer service mindset.
 
SPEAKingston is dedicated to making Kingston a better place to live, work and play.  They have 200 plus members and a strong, familiar leadership team, and are focused on more than just physical infrastructure.
SPEAKingston's core tenets are:
  1. Strong infrastructure
  2. Expanded employment and housing
  3. Attractive neighbourhoods
  4. Protecting heritage and environment
SPEAKingston wants to be a voice for SMART growth across diverse constituencies. Kingston's historical growth has been a bit slow……. And we’d like to change that by growing jobs, housing, etc. and want to support positive growth, and keep community aware of what’s going on through increased communication in social media channels and newsletters.  They do this in part by conducting regular surveys on hot topics to get input. Their first survey asked our community what is smart growth and what opportunities they would like addressed, and got 124 responses (this was good).
The priorities listed by those surveyed were;
  1. Strategies to grow economic base (63%)
  2. Initiatives to foster vibrant urban core
  3. Balanced approach to support and protect heritage
 The second survey is ongoing, and has 168 responses so far - if development happens in your neighbourhood, what aspects are important to you;
  1. Everyone wanted new development to add vitality to their neighbourhood
  2. Help increase all types of housing
  3. Development that is visually appealing
SPEAKingston spoke in favour of the Homestead towers at 51-57 Queen Street and 18 Queen/282 Ontario Street, but are not necessarily in favour of all tall buildings. (348 new residential units; more jobs; more tax revenue)  The are consistent with a smart growth agenda and the City’s plans and strategic aims for intensification.  These developments address housing, economic and vitality needs.  Our vacancy rate is the lowest in the Province and we need to address this.  Also, 26 percent of Kingston households spend more than 30 percent of their income on shelter.
 
The third survey focused on the biggest housing challenges - the answers?
Too much horizontal growth
We need well-planned downtown intensification
More affordable housing is desperately needed
 
Sandy referenced Austin Texas and Boston, which seemed to have combined history and new development in the downtown core.  SPEAKingston will continue to address hot button issues like the proposed new towers.  How can you be involved? Please like us on FaceBook, follow us on Instagram,
visit our website:  www.SPEAKingston.ca, take our latest survey on housing at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SPEAKingston-Dec2018, email us or sign up for our newsletter at SPEAKingston@gmail.com, or pledge your support today!
Questions and comments -John Richards likes the new pledge to increase communication within the community!
John Farrow noted with respect to resistance, he likes to remind people about the debate around the location of the KROCK Centre, predicted to be a huge disaster by some, but a  huge success downtown.  John also commented that it's funny what people are concerned about in development - the new retail plaza on Highway 15 was important to his neighbours because they were getting an LCBO over everything else!
John Gale asked have you reached out to labour?  Sandy answered that's a great idea! Mostly business and social organizations are engaged right now and we’d welcome the balance.  Most members of SPEAKingston are individuals to date.
Robert Reid remarked on the real panic among students to find housing.  He's actually been offered extra rent to secure rental units.   Sandy recognized this as another challenge - hundreds of units have been built and they’re all gone!
Sigi remarked on the many new projects and rezoning going on on Princess Street in the Williamsville District (finally).  Sandy also mentioned that the east and west business parks are now sold out.
 
John Gale thanked our speakers for an interesting presentation today.
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