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City of Powell River Council reviews safe streets project

Committee of the whole commits to engagement and to work on detailed design for project in Townsite
ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION: City of Powell River manager of planning services Daniella Fergusson provided an overview about a planned safe streets project for Maple Avenue and Sycamore Street, which is designed to connect with the mid-level connector for active transportation between Brooks Secondary School and Powell River Recreation Complex.

Further public engagement will be part of the process moving forward to determine the outcome of the proposal to make Maple Avenue and Sycamore Street into safe streets in Townsite.

At the City of Powell River committee of the whole meeting on February 28, manager of planning services Daniella Fergusson said now that the province has announced funding for the safe streets project, she was bringing it back to council’s attention, and looking for support to proceed with public engagement.

“Maple and Sycamore safe streets is part of a planning study and planning process we’ve been undergoing for a couple of years now,” said Fergusson. “It started with the parks and trails master plan, which had an active transportation study included in it. There were some gaps in our understanding of the cycling network in Powell River, in particular where our key destinations are and how to get there in the fastest and most direct way possible.

“Staff worked on the bicycle networks strategy that council adopted and the strategy resulted in a cycling and active transportation map for the entire city, which was adopted into the official community plan (OCP). It identified Maple Avenue as a neighbourhood bikeway.”

Fergusson said this is not a bike lane, it’s a street where there is slowed down traffic so people riding bikes feel safe enough to ride in traffic. She said the whole network is designed to provide safe, direct, convenient, attractive and accessible ways for people to travel through Powell River without a car.

According to Fergusson, the Townsite safe streets project would connect with the mid-level connector between Brooks Secondary School and Powell River Recreation Complex without having to go on Highway 101 or through Cranberry. Fergusson said the mid-level connector has been funded and early investigation work is underway before construction begins, and that the OCP designates Maple and Sycamore as bicycle streets. An engagement process occurred and the OCP has been adopted, and there were also resident concerns about speeding, she added.

“We are now at the implementation stage after a couple of planning stages,” said Fergusson.

She addressed the matter of parking and said from Chestnut to Hawthorn streets, the roadway is less than nine metres wide, so currently, there is only parking on one side of the street. She said project consultants ISL Engineering and Land Services, in a technical memo, indicated it could be possible to have parking on both sides of the street, which would mean cars would have to pull over in certain areas to let each other through.

“You couldn’t have two cars pass at the same time,” said Fergusson. “What ISL has proposed is instead of having it as it is today, where parking is all on the same side of the street the whole way, it would zig-zag a little bit. This is something we can certainly discuss in public engagement.”

Fergusson said 70 per cent of the project, or $357,000, has been received from the province, and the remaining 30 per cent, or $153,000, has been committed by Powell River Community Forest, for a $510,000 project.

Council concerns

Mayor Ron Woznow said it was his understanding that councillors would hear details regarding the planned engagement processes, and that he hadn’t seen any details. He added that the OCP is very specific about engagement.

“I hope before we decide whether this project should move forward, that we receive detailed information on the consultation that you propose,” said Woznow.

Fergusson said what is being proposed is three workshops for everyone to attend, with each focused on a different section of the corridor. She said she would want ISL to be there.

Councillor Cindy Elliott asked, in light of some concerns that councillors had heard, particularly around parking and access, what is the opportunity to change the plan to accommodate the needs?

Fergusson said parking was probably the easiest issue to address in the concept plan.

Councillor Jim Palm said residents who were having concerns about the prospective development on Maple, relayed that Willow Avenue seemed to be the natural place for a new bike lane in Townsite. He asked if the OCP could be reexamined and if the city could look at Willow.

Fergusson said an OCP amendment would be out of scope for this project.

Committee of the whole chair Trina Isakson asked about timelines for the project and a fuller community engagement process, given the funding and weather patterns.

Fergusson said additional steps could delay the project and she does not know if the funder would support that.

Councillor Earl Almeida asked about the project deadline and when it had to be completed. Fergusson said the deadline to spend money is March 2024. She said there is a window in the summer to pour concrete and paint lines, but come September, through to the next spring, it becomes too cold to undertake those activities. It’s not unusual to ask for an extension of a couple of months, but asking for another year may not be accepted, she added, and that the plan is to come back in early May with the detailed design.

Councillor Rob Southcott said what is being proposed in Townsite is consistent with what is happening around the world. He said he is sure the coming consultations will have lots of engagement, so there can be an active conversation to figure out what is best.

“I am very pleased with the planning department’s commitment to exactly that,” added Southcott.

Councillor George Doubt made a motion that staff be directed to undertake community engagement to inform development of the project from the current concept stage to the detailed design stage, and report back on the results of the engagement and proposed detailed design. The motion also stated that after engagement, at the May 2 committee of the whole meeting, to seek further direction on proceeding to implementation and construction phases.

The motion carried, with Woznow and Palm opposed.

After the meeting, Woznow said he and Palm had requested that staff come back to council with a consultation plan so they could review it to ensure it met the official community plan requirements and meet the expressed needs of the residents most impacted by the project. Once council approved, staff could then move forward with the plan, said Woznow.