By Jonathan Juha, Postmedia News
Monday, January 8, 2018
Stratford city hall
Ballantyne Avenue residents scored an important victory Monday night, as council decided to support a motion asking staff to create a new design for the street that includes two sidewalks.
Though council’s vote doesn’t mean the street will get to keep both its sidewalks yet, Justine Brotherston, a resident of the street and who gave a presentation to council before the 6-4 vote, called the decision an important first step.
“I feel like if they are voting towards seeing the plan, it is a vote in the right direction,” she said after the meeting. “Now we are going to have to keep pushing this forward and make sure we make it very obvious to (councillors) . . . that they should continue to make these decisions if they want to make Stratford a better community.”
The residents have been opposing the city after learning that their street, following water main and storm sewers work, would also be losing a sidewalk.
The decision to remove the sidewalks is part of a local policy intended to save the city money in future maintenance by building only one sidewalk on streets that have two and undergo major renovations.
But for Ballantyne Avenue residents, the impacts of the policy go beyond this particular project.
“Really the question comes down to about 25 years from now and where do we want to be in 25 years,” said Ian Brotherston, Justine’s father and who also addressed council.
He compared the city’s policy with the one in place in Peterborough, which has the goal of providing sidewalks on both sides of all city streets.
“There’s no way to escape what one plan will accomplish in the end and what the other one will,” he said.
Despite council’s nod, the motion also faced fierce opposition, especially from Coun. Kathy Vassilakos, who gave an impassioned speech against changing the original, one-sidewalk design originally presented by staff.
She strongly criticized Ballantyne Avenue residents’ argument that the current city policy ignores the needs of people with mobility issues, when in fact it tries to bring areas of the city up to the highest standards set by the province in its Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), she said.
“A lot of the sidewalks in these older neighbourhoods are not AODA compliant, and we are required by law to replace the existing sidewalk infrastructure with sidewalks that are compliant,” she said. “We are also taking into consideration new cycling standards . . . and we are actually creating a city 25 years from now where we’ll meet the standards for a cycling-friendly community.
“Staff are looking at modern standards. They are not leveling down (residents); they are leveling up on the standards that we have.”
Following council’s vote, staff will now have to create a new design for the street with two sidewalks and hold a new public meeting for residents to have the opportunity of looking at the changes.
A final decision on the project is expected in the coming weeks.