Sidewalk Priority Policy questioned

A year ago, the Town of Cobourg planned to build a sidewalk on Abbott Boulevard but the residents there objected and no new sidewalks were constructed in 2017.  To resolve the impasse, staff were instructed to create a policy which would rank the priorities of new sidewalks to be built.  A comprehensive policy using complex algorithms was approved by Council for this purpose on April 30 this year but it seems that the residents on Northwood Drive didn’t read the policy so did not notice that a sidewalk on their street was ranked number one (see links below).  On June 11, Council approved a motion to proceed to build the sidewalk on Northwood Drive (per the policy) so notifications were sent out that construction would start in September.  Resident Donna Woods was at Council on Monday objecting to that plan.

Donna Woods
Donna Woods

Donna said she represented the residents of the street (some were in the gallery) and that none of them wanted a sidewalk – certainly not yet.  She criticized the methodology and with her revisions, Northwood Drive would be ranked much lower.  She said that the traffic on the street was very low and that there was no danger from a lack of a sidewalk.  She asked if a traffic count had been done on the street (No) and compared her own traffic count of 1 to 4 cars at rush hour (7:30 to 8:30 am) to the count at Abbott Blvd of 94- 120 cars.

Northwood Drive is a side street off the north end of Westwood Drive. It is not a collector road and Donna said it is not near any schools [On Google maps it looks to be about 330 metres from Notre Dame CES].

In addition, Donna said that adding a sidewalk would cause problems with winter snow clearing/storage so that the road would then become more hazardous (details are in her presentation below).

Donna had a petition signed by 48 people who objected to the proposed sidewalk. She said they included the majority of residents on Northwood Drive and that: “The exclusions are a few families on vacation, an out of town family death and the few seniors who are afraid to get involved.” 

In summary:

  • The ranking is wrong and Northwood Drive should be a lot lower priority
  • Residents do not want a sidewalk
  • A sidewalk would actually make the street more dangerous in winter
  • There was insufficient notification.

Council reaction

  • Suzanne Séguin asked: “Why give them a sidewalk if they don’t want one?  Maybe we didn’t get the policy right”  Many in the gallery applauded at this point.
  • Debra McCarthy defended going ahead because of the benefit to the disabled “It opens up their world”.  She said that the public would not embrace sidewalks and Gil supported that point.
  • John Henderson said that traffic counts should be looked at.

A decision was deferred pending a report by staff.

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Kevin

It is late to join this discussion so few may read this but that is OK. In this thread Johnny Percolides wrote that he thinks the town should be responsible for clearing sidewalks. If you agree with this idea or not I hope some find it interesting that he made the suggestion. It can be relatively easy to do the same thing year after year but to make real progress we need new ideas. Budgeting and building sidewalks on streets that have not had sidewalks for decades seems to be the current policy. Maybe it is time to make changes. We need people like Johnny that have ideas and are willing to put them out there. The residents can then decide if they agree or not. I would like a town council that puts out new ideas, listens to the residence that will be effected (the residence will pay for it with taxes after all) and make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the community as a whole. I like that Johnny is willing to state his opinion and present new ideas. For the purpose of full disclosure I know Johnny personally and have worked with… Read more »

Bryan

Changing the side-walk priority ranking for Northwood Dr. is not about seniors, low traffic utilization or the hardships of snow clearing. It is about the impact of a data error on the sidewalk priority guidline. I’m making a leap of faith here in believing that the guideline was professionally developed in good faith and was not developed to support a pre-determined outcome.
Northwood Dr and Srague Cres. were allocated 20 priority points each on the basis of proximity to a school. Specifically, one located in the vicinity of Westwood Park. The problem is the “school” is a phantom. It doesn’t exist.
Data errors occur in all software systems and the Town’s GIS is no exception. There have been previous problems with this system. The professional response to acknowledge the issue, make adjustments as needed and move on.

That is what needs to happen in this case. This is not about scrapping of overriding the Side-walk Priority Guideline. Council needs to refer the the issue to staff (Dir. Wills) for resolution and adjustment as needed.
A professional response, one that confirms and preserves the integrity of the Side-walk Priority Guideline.

Annoyed

That is a school property, it isn’t an error. It didn’t need to be considered in the study, doesn’t mean it’s an error.

Bryan

What school? Please provide the name and address!
The criteria says SCHOOL, not school property, school some day or imaginary school…..Bricks and mortar. The Side-walk Priority Guideline is about pedestrians walking around Cobourg and an attempt to rank destinations. A phantom school is not a destination. In this context how can assign a rank to something that doesn’t exist.

Doug Weldon

Better Idea: Use the money to resolve a hazardous situation on D”Arcy Street. D”Arcy is a major arterial street. The farthest you can drive in Cobourg without encountering a stop sign or a traffic light. Cars speed on the wide open north end of this street but without any signage at the D’Arcy and University St. intersection cars continue to speed into a congested residential and school zone. Unlike the High School which is quite visible, C R Gummow is hidden behind a block of houses. The student crossing is very poorly marked. (Check out markings on Toronto Road at St. Anthony’s School. They are excellent. – YES, that is in Port Hope!) A four way stop at University and D”Arcy would go a long way to fixing this hazard. Pedestrian fatalities HAVE occurred on this street! Has the town done an audit of needed necessary improvements for hazardous situations or do they simply follow set policies? Has a town official spent time at this spot watching the risk students are forced to face when crossing this street. The crossing guard is courageous but at a high risk of being hit.

Ken

I agree with Doug, to a point. A four way stop, in my opinion, would just confuse those that presently have trouble driving correctly! I am a school bus driver and I would like to see D’Arcy and University become a ‘controlled intersection’ ! That is to say, traffic lights should be installed. I am surprised that there hasn’t been anyone killed or badly hurt, whether they be a pedestrian or motorist, at this intersection?

Doug Weldon

Ken That would be great but I have been told by the town that it will not happen for some years because of the expense, which they can’t afford. Guess they are busy spending money on unwanted sidewalks. A 4 way stop would be inexpensive and could be done quickly. 4 way stops really only slow traffic as cars slide through but no one is held up for too long while traffic is slowed down. So, I think a 4 way would be a big improvement. Doug W.

Annoyed

You obviously don’t understand that municipalities have MANY responsibilities. It is the strategy of this council to work towards meeting the Official Plan which says that Arterial and Collector roads will have sidewalks on both sides and local roads will have sidewalk on at least one side of the road. Residents are selfish about their own property and no one ever wants the responsibility of a sidewalk in front of their home. They would cry foul if the entire town had no sidewalks though! The considerations that have lead to this plan include accessibility and active transportation – i.e. get off your butt and walk somewhere instead of driving your car. They are working towards making the community more walkable. AND when an amount of money is budgeted towards new sidewalk installs that money cannot be spent on another project. It has to be spent on sidewalks or nothing at all.

Fact Checker

Shouldn’t resident preference count for something? These “official plans” are supposed to be dynamic and not cast in stone in order to make allowances for changing needs.
To the main issue, both you and Council missed the main point of Northwood’s delegation. It was obscured by all of the extraneous concern and hype over non-relevant issues. As Bryan pointed out, the Side-walk Priority Guideline is flawed due to a data error. Fix the error.

Dubious

AND when an amount of money is budgeted towards new sidewalk installs that money cannot be spent on another project. It has to be spent on sidewalks or nothing at all.

And the problem with *NOT* spending a budgeted amount is?

Tim

If a school bus driver thinks that traffic lights should be installed at an intersection near a school, that project should take priority over any other project in this town. It’s a disgrace they weren’t installed years ago. Evidently we have a Mayor, Council and CAO who are slaves to consultants and complex algorithms, and haven’t got the common sense to install traffic lights at a crucial intersection.

Miriam Mutton

I agree that there may be other priorities that deserve attention.

On the matter of a four way stop, this is likely safer than having lights .. except for pedestrians trying to figure out which driver or pedestrian has the right of way. A simple rule could be that if a pedestrian is waiting to cross, all drivers have to yield.

My concern with a signalized intersection is that the street (D’Arcy in this example) is long straight and flat. The colour of the light could be seen a long way away and many drivers would speed up to make the crossing through the intersection before the light changes colour.

This may make drivers less aware of their immediate surroundings, including the fact there is a school crossing part way between King Street and University Ave.

I learned this bit about driver behaviour, being less aware when aiming for a target, from a driving instructor.

A four way stop may also help with traffic flow at D’Arcy and University especially during busy school times. So, how about this four stop be installed before sidewalks on Northwood Drive?

Old Sailor

Wondering whether an improved management plan for water and sewer infrastructure should take priority over building unrequested sidewalks. Does the town priorize future capital expenditures based on need?

Hundreds of homes had sewer back up in their basements in June 2017 due to outdated sewer capacity infrastructure and the effects of the new climate change regime – more heavy rainfalls and flooding.

Walter L. Luedtke

Yes, it does! “Cobourg has several initiatives underway to help prepare for more extreme weather events due to climate change, said Stephen Peacock, chief administrative officer for the Town of Cobourg. “We are seeing more frequent weather events. We want to be prepared for that,” said Peacock. Aimed at mitigating flooding issues, the Midtown Creek project, a $1.6-million initiative, will store and control flood waters in a new flood detention pond located in an area off Division Street, south of Elgin Street, said Peacock. The new stormwater management pond and a concrete outlet structure aims to control the release of water on Midtown Creek, which will contain and treat stormwater and provide flood protection. Once completed, the new structures will help reduce the likelihood of flooding thus contributing to the reduction of social and economic risks for local homeowners and businesses. The project is receiving provincial funding. Another project comes through the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, which has been contacted by the town to conduct a full analysis of stormwater in Cobourg. Leslie Benson, interim director of Watershed Services, said the project is analyzing all stormwater sewers in Cobourg and mapping where there are no storm sewers, where the sewers… Read more »

Old Sailor

Hopefully what is outlined above re sewer infrastructure spending is executed as soon as possible. Homeowners getting their 2018 insurance renewals are discovering that their insurer may not want to cover them because of where they live in Cobourg or their premiums have doubled and they are no longer covered for sewer backup or overland flooding or there is a new smaller cap on sewer backup damage and only if you have a sump pump and a sewer backflow preventer valve installed. A lot of the claims last year were in excess of $50k. Very unpublicized stats on the home damage caused in Durham and Northumberland last June.

A bit off topic.

Walter L. Luedtke

Not at all off topic and very timely points.
Overland flood insurance is priced according to your neighbourhood’s risk factor. If you’re in a low-risk area, overland water protection might be added at no cost if you have sewer-backup protection.
If overland flood insurance is available to you at a reasonable cost, and if you choose not to purchase it, you may not qualify for Disaster Recovery Assistance in Ontario. With the average cost of basement flood damage in an urban area of $42,000, this coverage is a no-brainer if you’re eligible.
Some west-end folks who turned down storm sewers recently may live to regret it.

Eastender

So, unelected Councillor Seguin…why make us pay taxes if we don’t want to?

Eastender

Did you mean sophist?

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

I am guessing that this was a typo? Should it be corrected?

Durka

Just build the thing. The whole point of the list was to assign a methodology, rank and build, the end. This pointless fight cannot happen every year. Plenty of town residents deal with sidewalks and so can they, it’s part of being in a community.

They also do not own the land in question. I saw that a couple residents will lose gardens. Do not build a garden on property that is not yours and it wouldn’t be an issue. Not the towns problem.

Tim

The real reason for not wanting sidewalks is generally more selfish — they don’t want to encourage people to walk past their homes and their taxes might go up. If the Town owns the property on which the sidewalks are to be built, the Town can do as it pleases.

Durka

They also don’t want to shovel snow, another selfish reason

Dubious

Why build a sidewalk from which to clear snow if there is no need for the sidewalk? I suppose that you feel that shoveling snow builds character.

Dubious

You correctly point out that the sidewalk area belongs to the city. Why should the adjacent property owner be expected to clear snow from city property? Why not extend the responsibility and require the property owner to clear snow from the roadway in front of her house?

Walter L. Luedtke

“The Town of Cobourg’s Removal of Ice and Snow of Sidewalks By-law requires that homeowners, tenants, and businesses clear all sidewalks that are abutting their property from ice and snow.
Every owner of a building whether occupied or unoccupied, or vacant land is required to clear and remove the snow and ice in the area within 24 hours after the accumulation of snow and ice.”
Run for Council to change the by-law or quit complaining.

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

Great idea, I am running for council and I would definitely be in favor of changing that by-law. The local residents of Cobourg pay some really high taxes and in return they should have snow removal in my opinion. It is a safety issue, it is a problem for a lot of elderly and of course for everyone with physical limitations.

May I ask you Mr. Walter L. Luedtke if you would support and be in favor of changing that by-law?

Cobourg Person

So your suggestion is that the Town of Cobourg assume responsibility of clearing all sidewalks, etc? Would that not increase property taxes as a result of the additional costs?

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

My suggestion is that the Town Of Cobourg should be clearing the snow from the sidewalks in front of all residential properties.

It doesn’t have to increase the property taxes, you can cut expenses from somewhere else. FIRST and foremost the outrageous budget for consultants. We have a lot of educated local residents and some even on this blog who would be very happy to contribute if they were only allowed.

We can stop spending money to install signs to direct people to the beach, this is 2018! People can find the beach and the downtown, this is not a very large Town. If you drive for 15 minutes you can probably see it all.

Tim

I couldn’t agree with you more. It is time that we stopped squandering taxpayers’ money on consultants and their slick ridiculous presentations that always conclude with assurances of flexibility. As for signs to direct people to the beach: how about asking someone where it is.

democrat

” We have a lot of educated local residents and some even on this blog who would be very happy to contribute if they were only allowed.”

Hmm consultants have to professionally accredited how many of these “local experts” could have their opinions stand up to scrutiny? Pay peanuts get monkeys!

Better get a better electioneering slogan than that!

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

With all due respect I think Mr Walter L. Luedtke is a very educated man and can very easily have his opinions stand up to your scrutiny. I don’t think he would need a huge salary for it either, so you can pay peanuts and get really good people not monkeys.

What about yourself? Do you wish to enlighten us or do you enjoy hiding in the back ground and just criticizing everything?

Walter L. Luedtke

Hahaha!
Perhaps you could apologize for the crude insults you spewed at me when I questioned the desirability of having a realtor on Council
Don Kirkup, a fellow Cobourg realtor for many years, realized the inherent conflict-of-interest when he ran for Mayor and promised to put his business on hold.
Will you promise the same?
As far as the snow clearing bylaw is concerned, without folks clearing in front of their properties taxes would be even higher.
Perhaps the taxpayer should clear their drive-ways too?
That could be a big time vote getter!
But!
If folks want kids or people in the snow clearing business to blow snow for them, let them pay for it,
User-pay and private enterprise! That ‘s what the CTA folks, whose votes you are fishing for, like to see.
Any more half-baked ideas?

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

I do enjoy a good challenge Mr Walter L. Luedtke. I would like to know what you would like to see from a candidate? What issues are important to you? What would I have to do in order to get your support? I do not fish and I do not play golf either but I would really like to know what it would take to go after your vote.

democrat

How about telling us what you stand for instead of just mouthing off Fordian slogans like “I will do what the people tell me what they want!” Being a councillor is much more than being a mouthpiece. For example you have to pick whose mouthpiece you want to be. Tell us what side of the issue you will be on!

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

I think I already have started but maybe you don’t agree or care to listen. I am against the expansion of the Marina, simple.

Has any other candidate told you anything? Feel free to share if they have?

democrat

Pretty simple campaign so far then, how about an opinion on the big giveaway to Hamilton Twp with our services when Council got taken to the cleaners. And don’t tell me you need more time to study the issues you have been running for four years. This issue is a big one especially for a real estate agent.

JOHNNY PERCOLIDES

Did any of the other candidates tell you anything?
What about you, when will you drop your name in the hat? Apparently you have before, right?

Dubious

I am aware of the bylaw. Why is it reasonable for a property owner to be required to maintain city property?

SayWhat?

As part of your driveway is also city property, why is the city (town) letting you drive across it to get to your property?