Round One: Sidewalk opponents make no headway at city hall
LONDON, ONT. -- Focus turns to next week’s council meeting, after dozens of delegates from streets opposed to new sidewalks failed to get the backing of the Civic Works Committee (CWC).
The committee of five councillors rejected exemptions for a long list of residential streets where sidewalks will be installed during reconstruction this summer.
But the issue appears poised for another lengthy debate by city council next week.
“The removal of the parking space (on my driveway) would require us and our neighbours to constantly park on the street,” said Herman Post during his five minute presentation to the committee.
And even a former deputy mayor who oversaw the crafting of city hall’s Complete Streets Design Manual said a sidewalk isn’t warranted on his street.
“Without sidewalks on Hyde Park and the westerly portion of St Anthony, these sidewalks will serve very little purpose,” explained Paul Hubert.
Opposition to sidewalks on 11 residential streets dominated the four-hour meeting.
Concerns centred around boulevard tree preservation, reduced driveway parking capacity, and overall necessity.
But accessibility advocates argued not installing sidewalks sends a message of exclusion to Londoners with disabilities who may want to live on the street in the future.
“I’m not saying that everyone who does not want a sidewalk on their street is ableist,” said Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee Jay Menard. “However, it is reflective of our societal belief that have enabled the establishment of barriers.”
The conflict is in part a dilemma of council’s own making.
Last year council provided exemptions to three streets, opening the door to resistance on every residential street facing similar sewer and road reconstruction this year.
“We’re setting council up, pitting neighbourhoods against neighbourhoods. That really concerns me,” warned Councillor Anna Hopkins.
But Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen pushed his colleagues to respect the will of homeowners.
“A fifty year old neighbourhood never designed for that (sidewalk), to retrofit it is a disaster. It’s devastating for the people,” he said.
The residential streets poised to receive sidewalks are:
• Abbey Rise (plus Scarlett connection to Wychwood)
• Bartlett Crescent
• Elm Street
• Friars Way
• Imperial Road
• Paymaster Avenue
• St. Anthony Road
• Tarbart Terrace
• Doncaster Place
• Culver Place
• East Afton Place
“There is a cost to painting every street with the same brush as accessibility differs from street to street,” added Councillor Steve Lehman.
Ultimately, the five member committee recommended no exemptions for any of the streets, but Imperial Road may have its new sidewalk moved to the east side.
A motion supported by the committee could offer a solution for at least some of the streets.
It would direct city engineers to consider narrowing the asphalt portion of the road, to as little as six metres, and use that newly created space to accommodate a sidewalk.
“That could potentially still allow some streets to have parking on one side, as opposed to both, and still allow emergency vehicles to access them,” explained Chair of the Civic Works Committee Elizabeth Peloza.
Council will debate the sidewalk installations and make final decisions at its March 23 meeting.