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From Councillor Etherington: Nibbling away at Kitchener’s heritage neighbourhoods

2017 December 13
by Melissa

Pro-developer Kitchener councillors took one more precedent-setting bite at a downtown heritage neighbourhood last night.

They did so by approving a flashy development jammed on a very prominent David Street lot in the Victoria Park heritage neighbourhood where I live.

Ironically the project, surprisingly approved by Kitchener’s heritage staff and some committee members,  looks down on the historic Clock Tower and Common area of the park. The tower is all that’s left of our  historic city hall bulldozed by former city councillors who also favoured modern, mundane development over heritage buildings.

In Monday’s 7-4 vote, those supporting the six-storey building included pro-development boosters Councillors Paul Singh and Bil Ioannidis — two council representatives on our heritage committee who also head up Kitchener’s planning committee. They were joined by Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and downtown, civic-centre Coun. Sarah Marsh as well as Scott Davey, Kelly Galloway-Sealock and Dave Schnider.

Because I dislike the ultra-modern look of a building that could and should have used more brick recommended in heritage-area documents, I voted against the project as did Couns. John Gazzola, Yvonne Fernandes and Zyg Janecki.

The development, which will use a combination of metal and glazing materials as well as some token brick, is located between Jubilee Drive and Joseph Street. It will  be a 6-storey, 30-unit building tiered back on the 4th, 5th and 6th storeys adjacent to red brick and stone town homes as well as the historic Victoria School and an ugly high-rise apartment building at the park entrance.

The high-rise was erected after at least six heritage homes along one side of Courtland between David and Queen Streets were, like the beautiful former city hall, demolished.

The latest from Councillor Etherington: Wondering what PARTS puddings will taste like

2017 December 8
by Melissa

The proof will be in the planning puddings.

That’s obvious as each glossy PARTS (Planning Around Rapid Transit Stations) is presented to Kitchener council while we wait and wait for the LRT to come chugging slowly down the line.

The latest PARTS study examines a future “walkable urban village” including Rockway, Cedar Hill, Mill-Courtland, Highland-Stirling and other communities near the Borden and Mill-Ottawa LRT stations. The plan, approved by planning committee this week, will be ratified by council Monday evening.

This area includes the former 27-acre Schneider’s site sandwiched between Mill and Courtland. It is now owned by London-based Auburn Developments, a company that has built high-income condo buildings in Kitchener and Waterloo. Auburn is considering a mix of  housing that includes everything from stacked town homes to high-rise towers on the property.

Back to the pudding mixed by planners.

My key concern with PARTS is that the plans are not giving enough attention to the preservation and encouragement of affordable, mid-range housing currently found in established communities. And by affordable, I don’t necessarily mean low-cost, subsidized housing although I’ve yet to see any sign of that form of shelter along the LRT route.

Most attention has to date focused on developers building condos for high-income residents who want to live near the LRT and I don’t blame that housing imbalance on planners trying to mix the necessary ingredients for PARTS  puddings.

Watching what’s already happening, I predict that, as usual, planners will fight a losing struggle against wealthy, powerful developers and political friends that dominate municipal councils.

You can already see the pressure to dilute PARTS in comments made by some councillors and developers requesting changes to fledgling plans. It’s partly seen through requests that planners use weasel words in PARTS like “flexibility, encourage and consider” when drafting “guidelines” that would leave multiple wiggle room as development progresses.

As an example, in this particular study, planners want to see better and more attractive use of Schneider and Shoemaker creeks that currently meander through communities in ugly, graffiti-covered concrete ditches.They want to see the waterways form focal points in new green areas snd trails both in and around the Schneider site.

But they are already experiencing pushback from landowner-developers who want to maximize development potential on their properties.

Which leaves me wondering about the final taste and texture of those puddings.

The latest from Councillor Etherington: Pause on cat licensing supported by most Councillors

2017 December 7
by Melissa

Call it a purrtial, political compromise to improve the optics involved in the licensing cat fight.

A majority of Kitchener Councillors considering ways to reject efforts by yours truly to research cat licensing approved that task this week as long as the troubling issue disappeared until 2019, a year after the 2018 municipal election.

Staff who didn’t have time to cope with the workload involved in that research will now do most of the same work and report back to council before 2019. The work includes looking at how other municipalities have implemented cat licensing as well as spay neutering and ways to microchips cats in order to help return them to owners.

The clawback compromise was the brainchild of our ever-political Mayor Berry Vrbanovic who, just a few weeks ago, dismissed cat licensing as “a cash grab” that he and others should oppose.

I pointed out to councillors that cats represent 60 per cent of the workload for the local  Humane Society which gets $630,000 a year in taxpayer funds while a rough cash estimate shows the city could collect about $500,000 a year by issuing $25 cat licenses.

I also noted that Councillors reluctant to upset cat-owning voters might lose the votes and feel the bite of frustrated dog owners who are supposed to pay a $30 licensing fee for their pets while cat owners pay absolutely nothing.

From Councillor Etherington: Housing strategy won’t impact Kitchener’s changing skyline

2017 November 26
by Melissa

It’s unlikely Ottawa’s recent and overdue housing strategy will be in place when at least 10 major high-rise projects dramatically change Kitchener’s skyline during the next few years.
That approaching downtown construction frenzy is caused by a combination of inner-city intensification, Light Rail Transit and developers scrambling to benefit from a program of forgiven development-charge incentives worth millions of dollars that ends in 2019.
To help save our countryside from urban sprawl, I’m in favour of carefully managed intensification but I also support the protection of established residential communities, particularly heritage neighbourhoods.
And as someone who represents downtown Ward 9 and lives in the Victoria Park heritage area, I’m increasingly concerned about developments along King, Queen, Victoria, Charles and other major arteries cradling several established communities.
Recently I learned about plans to build a 25-storey tower beside the Tannery at Francis and Charles streets and another 20-plus-storey building at Victoria and Bramm streets. One positive part about the proposal alongside The Tannery is the possibility it will include the first downtown grocery store in the city’s west end
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, developers of what started as a 24-storey condo at Gaukel and Charles streets want to push it up to 31 storeys.
Additional projects are coming on other parts of Victoria Street and around the LRT terminal near King and Wellington while others will follow.
Which is good for the economy but what about the changing character of those established neighbourhoods that are expected to embrace enormous condo towers that do little to provide housing for other than investors and high-income homebuyers along the LRT route?
With existing city regulations, zoning and a recent tall-building policy, all we can hope for is that councillors and planners insist developers taking advantage of those cash incentives meet high standards of construction quality and architectural design in buildings that will be with us for decades. They should also research ways to make certain developments meet affordability and housing needs of all income groups.

Annual General Meeting minutes – Nov 3rd, 2017

2017 November 10
by Melissa

AGM2017

6:00 Welcome
6:15 Chair’s speech: Highlighted VPNA events and neighbourhood involvement over the last year. rych mills spoke about the gallery in the park briefly and also thanked Mark and Glennis Yantzi for their years of service to the neighbourhood as they have now moved to a new home outside of the neighbourhood.
6:30 Programming: Trivia and pizza
7:05 Elections: 2018 board members: Chair-Melissa B; Treasurer-Rose O; Secretary-Anka B; Newsletter editor-vacant; Program coordinator-Charlotte K; Communications coordinator-Cathy L; DNA liaison-Patrick G; Events coordinator-Steve B; Volunteer coordinator-vacant; Members-at-large-Rebekah H, Erin T, Mario, Anna M, Gillian V.
7:20 Programming: Trivia
7:45 Closing remarks and prizes

 

The latest from Frank Etherington: Councillors yowling about cat-license clawback

2017 November 9
by Melissa

Kitchener councillors have de-furred the cat-licensing issue until Dec. 4.
And, with a jaundiced eye on potential lost-pet votes in the 2018 municipal election, I doubt the cat-fight issue will gain more that lukewarm support when my motion comes back for consideration with what I predict will be at least one added clause.
I think that once a staff report on potential workload and years of public consultation involved in the subject of cat licenses and microchipping returns to city hall, councillors will take a long pause, a lengthy catnap and no action on a subject dismissed as a “cash grab” by Mayor Berry Vrbanovic..
Which means we will ignore all issues of unfairness for dog owners and the increasing drain of $630,000 paid out each year by taxpayers to care for stray animals — 66 per cent of them abandoned, unlicensed cats.
That lack of equality has to do with about 40,000 dog owners who are supposed to buy $30 licenses (only 15,000 do so today) while an estimated 50,000 cat owners do not.
On the workload issue councillors are fully aware that cities including Guelph, Stratford, London, Mississauga, Sudbury, Ottawa, Peterborough, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal successfully introduced cat licensing without rushing out to hire dozens of people to cope with a spitting push-back from cat owners.
After a recent tour of our excellent humane society shelter, I’m convinced Kitchener should create a set fee for a cat license that would be reduced if a responsible pet owner microchips the pet in order to quickly reunite the missing feline.
Then, when the cats came back, it would save us all tax dollars

Position descriptions for the 2017 AGM

2017 October 29
by Melissa

AGM2017

Our AGM is Friday, November 3rd, 2017 at 6pm at the Victoria Park pavilion. Here are the descriptions for the positions we have up for election:

Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association: Annual General Meeting – Position Descriptions

Chair (or co-chairs)

Duties:

  • Preside at all meetings of the Neighbourhood Association. The Chair shall see that the Constitution is adhered to and that the Board takes the required action to fill all offices and appoint all committees. The Chair shall be ex-officio, a member of all committees.
  • Act as neighbourhood contact for all correspondence from City of Kitchener and other groups, including emails, letters and phone calls.
  • Have signing authority for VPNA financial transactions.
  • Manage administrative duties and correspondence.
  • Work with City of Kitchener staff to achieve goals of the Association.
  • Assist other executive members in fulfilling their duties.
  • Receive all association correspondence and retain copies of all letters written by or to the Executive as appropriate.
  • Stay up to date with issues affecting the neighbourhood and Victoria Park Working Committee.

Time Commitment: Attend Executive Meetings – 3 hours per month; Plus, other time as needed, between 10-20 hours a month

Treasurer

Duties:

  • As a member of the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association (VPNA) Executive, the Treasurer is responsible for attending to all financial matters related to the functions of VPNA and its programs. The treasurer must attend monthly meetings of the VPNA executive, which take place on weeknights. Duties include administering funds from program registration, grants and related funding activities, preparing annual budget, tracking of expenses and disbursements, and co-signing cheques with the VPNA Chair. Also, assist VPNA executive to prepare grant proposals and the financial plan for the Neighbourhood Association as needed.
  • Previous financial experience required, preferably with a non-profit organization. May provide training to the right individual, such as an accounting or business student. Orientation to the VPNA and current financial practices of the organization will be provided.
  • Must be bondable, and provide references and police records check to qualify for this position if requested.
  • The VPNA treasurer must live within the VPNA boundaries, Queen St. to Spadina to Van Camp/West Ave to Victoria Street to Joseph Street.

Time Commitment: Work at own pace from home, approximately 3-5 hours per month. Attend monthly meetings, approx. 3 hours, and be available to attend to financial matters as they arise.

Secretary

Duties:

  • Shall keep a complete record of all business transacted by the Association.
  • Take minutes at every meeting and send them out to the board members in a timely manner.
  • Be responsible for the preparation and distribution of notices for all meetings of the Association.
  • Shall notify each member of the Executive and the City of Kitchener staff of the time and place of each meeting.

Time commitment: Approximately 5 hours per month, plus monthly meetings, approx. 3 hours

Newsletter Editor

Duties:

  • Compile and edit the “Quarterly News” of the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association (VPNA) – “news, information and happenings in our neighbourhood.” Working with the Executive committee, the editor will solicit articles and items of interest for the newsletter, and prepare it for publication. Layout and formatting can be done by the editor, or with assistance from other executive members or City of Kitchener staff. Newsletters are published each season of the year to highlight coming events and issues, usually in January, April, July and October. Content is subject to approval by the VPNA President, and printed in co-operation with the City of Kitchener, for distribution to households and businesses in the VPNA area. The editor will also work with current volunteers to ensure distribution and delivery of the newsletter. The editor is a member of the VPNA Executive, and expected to attend monthly meetings on weeknights.
  • The newsletter editor must live within the VPNA boundaries, Queen St. to Spadina to Van Camp/West Ave to Victoria Street to Joseph Street.

Time Commitment: 4 issues per year, approximately 10 – 15 hours per issue; Attend Executive Meetings – 3 hours per month

Programmer (or Co-Programmers)

Duties:

  • Develop, coordinate and maintain programs run through the VPNA
  • Work with instructors and volunteers – recruit, hire and supervise
  • Provide registration service for VPNA Programs
  • Work in conjunction with staff at the Downtown Community Centre (DCC), where programs take place, ensuring good liaison between instructors and the DCC
  • Brainstorm issues and be available to attend to matters that arise
  • Submit program information quarterly for Leisure Guide and DCC Program Flyer
  • Attend monthly meetings of the VPNA executive, which take place on weeknights

Time commitment: Ranges from 5-10 hours per month, more at beginning of each session, plus attend monthly meetings, approx. 3 hours

Members at Large

Duties:

  • Help with events
  • Attend meetings and stay informed on VPNA issues
  • No other prescribed duties, but welcome to volunteer to help with other tasks of the VPNA.

Time commitment: Attend monthly meetings, approx. 3 hours; Time for additional tasks as agreed upon.

Communications Coordinator:

  • Share VPNA programs, events, and issues through a variety of means including the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Ensure these tools stay up to date. Maintain a database for email news to be passed on as appropriate.
  • Communicate with the newsletter editor as needed to coordinate efforts in communicating information to the neighbourhood.

Events Coordinator:

  • Facilitate events run by the VPNA
  • Search out potential partnerships for events (for example, other neighbourhood associations, city events, events sponsored by business such as Earth Day clean Up in the past)

DNA liaison:

  • Represent the VPNA at DNA meetings

Volunteer Coordinator:

  • Maintain database of potential volunteers (see volunteer team)
  • Coordinates volunteers as needed
  • Coordinates volunteer appreciation initiatives (thank you notes, appreciation night, etc).

Youth team/board:

  • A small group of young people (ages 10-18) who meet with the VPNA executive quarterly or on an as needed basis to discuss issues important to youth, suggest events that they may like to lead/run/participate in.

Volunteer team:

  • Volunteers who do not necessarily attend monthly meetings but are willing to assist with events and programs on an occasional basis.

Trivia, pizza party, and agm!

2017 October 27
by Melissa
November 3, 2017
6:00 pmto8:00 pm

AGM2017

Pumpkinpalooza Nov 1, 2017

2017 October 25
by Melissa

Join us Nov 1st in the Victoria Park Commons (near the clock tower) for our 3rd annual Pumpkinpalooza! Bring your jack o’lantern (lit with a battery-operated tealight or glowstick) and we will put them on display. Grab one of the hot drinks we’ll have and chat with a neighbour while taking a look at the creativity of our local neighbourhood pumpkin carvers! At the end of the night, leave your pumpkin there and we will compost it.

Pumpkinpalooza

VPNA Meeting Minutes – October 10, 2017

2017 October 14
by Melissa
Welcome
Councilor updates: Frank away. Updates on Nougat development; Jubilee crossing; Iron Horse Trail upgrades – delayed as there were no bids – will be retendered this Winter; house on West Ave – has been torn down now; Kitchener Heritage discussion re: Queen houses.
City updates: FoN finale – who can attend? Anna and Steve will attend. Nov 19/17. Agnes has connected with a resident at Linden Terrace and they are having conversations about possible playground improvements to that area. Agnes will keep us informed as needed.
Finance: Sent in a cheque to FoN for our sponsorship of the newcomer award.
Newsletters: We should send the newsletter to Agnes by Oct 20th. Ideas: Update neighbours on NAP; Save the date for a family day event; highlight DCC programming; updates from Frank on Iron Horse or community gardens; highlight the food forest and possible upcoming improvements such as signage and edging.
Little Library: Can be part of our placemaking grant application to the City along with a bench, community info board, anything else? Not this year as we will instead focus on developing a crossing over West Ave at Homewood.
Programming: no report
DNA: no report
VPWG: Still waiting to hear back from City staff about letter sent regarding the path between David St and the Boathouse. Update from Oct 2/17 – the path has been (mostly) paved. There is a section towards David St that has not been – perhaps it was deemed in a condition that did not require paving?
NAP: How do we proceed about the donated tree? Josh (NDO) will be attending the next NAP meeting to help us figure out next steps for the NAP. Melissa has connected with Brock Street neighbours group – some may be interested in joining NAP team as well.
Food Forest: Good news: Kitchener Post did an article on the City’s NAP process and used the VPNA’s work as an example of this process. Bad news: Within the same week, 2 of the 3 guilds in the Food Forest were cut down by a City staff person worried about certain plants possibly being harmful to others such as stinging nettle. Melissa, Charlotte, and Agnes have been in conversation with City staff in response to this situation.
Events: Pumpkinpalooza Nov 1st

·         We need some hot chocolate and apple cider (and cups – though we still have some leftover from last year that Melissa can bring as well). Erin will follow up on this – Cathy may have a connection at Williams worth pursuing.

·         We need some more battery-operated tealights – Erin to purchase.

·         Erin has a small card table she will bring that evening for the hot drinks.

·         Melissa will start posting to social media about this event and the AGM.

·         Steve will work on flyers and deliver some to the pumpkin farms. We will also make some so people can hand them out Halloween night. We will also print off AGM flyers to hand out that night as well.

·         We discussed whether to place pumpkins on clock tower or the commons area. It can be crowded around the clock tower but that can also often encourage conversations with neighbours. The clock tower can provide a good photo op as well. We will section off part of the clock tower steps for the pumpkins and as that fills up we can extend it over towards the commons area.

·         Agnes will arrange for pumpkin disposal with pick up right at the clock tower.

AGM Nov 3rd

·         We will do another trivia and pizza night for the agm this year. Pizza slices are 50 cents a slice and we will order veggie, pepperoni, and deluxe options. We will use a tally sheet to know what types of pizzas to order. The AGM will be 6-8pm.

·         Anna will do a Costco run for appetizers, snacks and drinks such as veggies and dip, chips, and juice boxes.

·         Agnes will let us know if there is a sock or pajama drive happening at that time that we can also collect for.

·         Agnes will see if Fabienne is willing to run the elections.

·         Todd and rych are willing to lead the trivia again this year.

·         Let’s highlight the NAP and seek feedback/engagement.

·         Let’s provide something on the tables for the kids as well – Melissa will bring ‘love my hood’ books and crayons.

·         Melissa will send out a task list and people can sign up for their tasks that way.

·         Anna would like to move into a member-at-large role, leaving the role of newsletter editor open to anyone interested.

·         We need to get some prizes for the trivia as well: Boathouse? rych? FourAll? Family Day event

Feb 19th – Yes, we will plan for an event that Monday.

Miscellaneous: Follow up on last month’s guest speaker from Community Support Connections.
Information for future meetings:
Adjournment
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