After more than two years of debate, at Monday’s regular meeting on October 21, Council finally approved the latest sidewalk priority policy as submitted. As Director Laurie Wills said “we were asked for a priority policy, not whether there should be sidewalks or not”. A last minute delegation by local resident Kevin Burt asked that residents be consulted for input and provided some himself about Abbott Blvd. But in response to a question by Councillor Emily Chorley, Director Laurie Wills defended her Policy and answered some of Kevin’s concerns. When it came to a vote, Council approved the Policy as it stood with only Emily voting against. That means Abbott Blvd will be first on the list to get constructed although its budget will first need to be approved.
Kevin Burt’s concerns – summary
- The Transportation Master Plan talks about a transportation network that includes sidewalks but also bicycle lanes, cycling paths and multi-use paths
- Usage of sidewalks are subject to a bylaw which only allows limited modes of transportation – pedestrians and wheel-chairs – not bicycles [The bylaw specifically excludes use of “skateboard, in-line skates, roller skates, ebike, bicycle, motorized scooter, segway, hover board” – exceptions are made for Wheelchairs and Mobility Aid’s which are defined as devices “used to facilitate the transportation of a person with a disability, such as a wheelchair”].
- Motorized wheel-chairs often use the roadway.
- Multi-Use paths are recommended
- Safety is relative
- There are alternatives to Sidewalks
- Local residents could advise if a bus-stop was used much and therefore whether it should be considered in determining the need for a sidewalk. Locals also know traffic patterns
- No traffic study was done to decide that Abbott should be #1 priority
- Kevin is concerned that the policy is mandated and excludes consultation
Response from Director Laurie Wills – summary
- The order of construction on the list is subject to Council’s budget approval
- There has in fact been public consultation on where sidewalks should be put – it occurred during Official Plan and Transportation Plan consultation
- Re sidewalks on “rural roads”; if there are ditches there can be no sidewalks since that’s where the sidewalks would go.
- Multi-use trails are 3 m wide and in most cases, there is no room for that.
- Sidewalks are safer – having them is safer than not having them.
- Staff was not asked “Sidewalks or not” but to set “priorities”
- The Priority plan takes subjectivity out of the process.
- There is no plan to bring each particular sidewalk back to Council for approval (other than budget approval each year).
Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin asked about repairing existing sidewalks – they should be done before new ones. Laurie replied that these were covered by the Operations budget. Suzanne asked that these be brought forward during budget deliberations.
Brian Darling talked about how the process had been discussed by council for two (three?) years with multiple public delegations. He said he’d received 20 emails from people disappointed that the Abbott Blvd sidewalk did not go through. He finished with “I think we’ve hashed this out pretty good”.
Emily said she could not support the plan since there was no provision for additional public engagement.
The Sidewalk Priority Plan was put to a vote and all were in favour except Emily.
- Sidewalk Priority Plan – as approved
- Sidewalk Bylaw
- Transportation Plan on Town web site
- Official Plan (2010 plan but finally approved in May 2018)
- Report about Committee of the Whole discussion on Sidewalk Priority Plan