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Councillor denies pre-meeting collusion before committee excludes several streets from requiring sidewalks

What’s become an annual battle over installing sidewalks in pre-existing neighbourhoods took an unexpected turn at a Civic Works Committee (CWC) meeting, leading to questions about the intent of a councillor’s email and a firm denial of wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, the Civic Works Committee considered Neighbourhood Connectivity Plans (NCP’s) for the Northridge neighbourhood in Ward 5 and the Huron Heights neighbourhood in Ward 3.

City engineers recommended 11 new sidewalk connections in Northridge and 20 new sidewalks along streets in Huron Heights to improve access to schools, parks, and other popular destinations.

The sidewalks would be designed and installed during sewer replacements and roadwork over the next decade or so.

The London Plan prescribes the installation of sidewalks every time an existing street undergoes reconstruction, but the NCP process allows for the exclusion of low-traffic crescents and courts based on neighbourhood input and travel patterns.

During Tuesday’s committee meeting, just one delegate argued in favour of the sidewalks recommended by city staff.

Comments from the procession of delegates that followed included:

  • “There hasn’t been a proven need based on increased traffic patterns, traffic volumes, [or] demographic changes.”
  • “The wishes of the community should not be lightly disregarded.”
  • “The people on the crescent don’t race up and down the street like fools. They are always aware of the children.”

However, Coun. Sam Trosow spoke to the importance of following the complete streets policy, which aims to improve safety, accessibility, and the mobility needs of future residents in the neighbourhoods.

“As much as we want to listen to the people in the gallery, we’ve passed The London Plan, and you are asking us to not follow it,” Trosow told colleagues.

Coun. Peter Cuddy, whose ward includes the Huron Heights neighbourhood, responded, “The London Plan is a guideline. it’s not the gospel. It’s not chiseled in stone.”

The Civic Works Committee voted 3-2 in favour of a pair of recommendations by Cuddy to add more streets to the exclusion list. (In favour: Cuddy, VanMeerbergen, Rahman; opposed: Trosow and McAlister)

Additional Huron Heights Sidewalk Exemptions:

  • Kaladar Drive
  • Cayuga Crescent
  • Mark Street
  • Michael Street

Additional Northridge Sidewalk Exemptions:

  • Glengarry Avenue
  • Dalkeith Avenue
  • Algoma Avenue
  • Gengyle Crescent
  • Dunboyne Crescent
  • Maxwell Crescent
  • Tweed Crescent

Following the decision, an email obtained by CTV News raised questions about the possibility that some councillors on the committee may have advanced committee business in private prior to the meeting.

Last week, Cuddy wrote in an emailed response to a city engineer:

“I've had this discussion with Councillor Pribil and several committee members. Please leave this with us. I believe we can craft a motion that will serve the interests of Ward 5 constituents.”

An email from Councillor Peter Cuddy to a city engineer. (Source: Supplied)

After the CWC meeting, Trosow expressed concern about emails he received from council colleagues regarding the sidewalks, “I just had the sense, and it’s bolstered by the emails I’ve seen, that decisions were being made offline.”

According to the Ontario Ombudsman’s website, open meeting rules require discussions that advance council business or decision-making by a quorum of a committee to take place in public.

Regarding email communications, the Ombudsman explained, “Any exchange wherein council votes, reaches consensus, provides direction or input to staff, or discusses or debates a proposal, course of action or strategy should be reserved for official meetings of a council, local board, or committee.”

“I would never do that,” Cuddy told CTV News when asked about the intent of his email. “We’ve been told by the clerk, and by the clerk’s office, that’s not what we do. Everything is transparent that we do here.”

Trosow agreed there have been warnings, but he believes some of the emails leading up to the CWC meeting crossed the line.

“There were quite a few instances of members of the committee, and the ward councillor, sending out communications about the substance of this matter to the entire committee,” Trosow explained. “We’ve been told many times not to do that. I think it was very inappropriate.”

Cuddy asserted the email obtained by CTV News was poorly worded.

“I’m not trying to collude behind anyone’s back. I would never do that,” he said. “My words were poorly chosen [in the email] and I will be much more careful in the future. And again, it’s a rookie mistake.”

Council will make a decision about sidewalk connectivity plans and street exemptions in the two neighbourhoods on Nov. 28. Top Stories

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