I am a staunch believer in the need for Kingston to be pro- development. The benefits of employment, taxation, new wealth and tourism are clearly desirable. Add the ability to justify and finance much needed enhancements to the city's infrastructure and it is easy to see why many people, myself included, were hoping our city council would be more pro-business.
It seemed to me that opponents of development were always trying to achieve the impossible. On one hand, they wanted to remain a quiet little borough with small-town values and atmosphere. On the other, they wanted the low taxes, abundant services and gleaming infrastructure generated by a booming economy; a vibrant downtown, but no traffic; industry, but not where they lived; and tourists, but only if they needn't change to attract them. If it was too new, too big or too different, then it was "not what Kingston needs."
In past editorials, I have been as critical as anyone of city council's inability to deal with those people. I've suggested council was unable or unwilling to draw a line in the sand and establish some priorities; unwilling or unable to make hard choices; and lacking the backbone to stand up to those who would impede the city's progress to preserve an antiquated sense of what Kingston needs. And I wasn't alone.
But there is an old saying to the effect that "one should be careful what they wish for, lest those wishes come true." And so, after hearing and reading about a rash of recent council decisions that appear to be pro-development, I fear that saying is all too true. There is clearly something wrong.
There is something wrong when developers violate laws and escape with a slap on the wrist. There is something wrong when council violates established legal procedures to work with developers. There is something wrong when private citizens are asked to pay fees for projects they didn't ask for but that benefit developers. And there is something wrong when council pays lip service to the citizens they represent and pursues developments in the face of substantial and non-partisan public complaint. Development opponents would be more than justified if they said: "I told you so."
I don't know what is wrong. I do know that council's inability or unwillingness to balance community interests today, or at least communicate its rationale, will destroy our ability to build a platform for responsible development in the future.
Ken Wong teaches at Queen's University's School of Business and lives in Kingston.
He is a member of The Whig-Standard's Community Editorial Board.