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City of Powell River safe streets project opposed

Delegation expresses concern about reconfiguring Maple Avenue and Sycamore Street
PETITION PRESENTED: City of Powell River’s plans to reconfigure Maple Avenue and Sycamore Street in Townsite met with opposition at the city’s committee of the whole meeting, where council chambers were filled with residents who are concerned about the project, which, through traffic calming and other measures, would reduce parking and speeds along the two streets.

City of Powell River councillors were presented a 279-signature petition from residents who do not support the proposed safe streets project on Maple Avenue and Sycamore Street.

At the February 28 committee of the whole meeting, Maple Avenue resident Diana Collicutt said the petition was signed by residents who are concerned about the impacts, the safety issues the project will create, and the lack of consultation. The safe streets project, budgeted at more than $500,000, has received funding from the province and the Powell River Community Forest. The project needs city council sanction to proceed.

Collicutt said that of the signatories, 152 were Maple Avenue residents, another 44 were from various Townsite locations, and there were 83 signatures from outside Townsite.

The petition stated there was no direct consultation or presentation of the plan with Maple and Sycamore residents to consider the impacts and to hear concerns before it was approved by council and forwarded to the province for a grant application. It also stated that parking will be reconfigured and reduced, impacting residents’ ability to access properties, plus creating unsafe conditions. The petition stated there are safety concerns for how transit, school buses, snowplows, emergency vehicles and garbage trucks will maneuver safely around curb extensions, staggered parking, and speed humps. The fourth point was there was no data collected on speeding, volume of traffic, or accidents to justify the extensive reconfiguration of the streets.

“Before council goes any further with this project, we request that council reconsider the plan by conducting traffic studies, a parking assessment, and consulting with Maple and Sycamore residents directly to hear the issues and safety concerns,” said Collicutt.

“Going door-to-door over the last several weeks, it became clear that residents are extremely worried about how this project will impact their daily lives. Residents are really concerned about safety on the street, what this plan means for them, and how they can continue to access their property.”

Collicutt said the city’s plans involve removing upwards to 30 to 35 per cent of the parking on some blocks.

“Before this project goes further, residents want the city to complete a parking assessment to properly identify the demand and analyze where residents are expected to park,” said Collicutt. “The city needs to know where the problems are and how it is going to fix it before it can advance this project.”

Collicutt also said that the city’s information about speeding and unsafe road conditions is based on anecdotal information.

“The Maple – Sycamore safe streets project plan was created mostly by individuals who do not live in the neighbourhood,” said Collicutt. “There was minimal opportunity for actual Maple and Sycamore resident feedback on this plan and no scientific studies were done. So, the city does not truly understand what is going on at the street level on a day-to-day basis.”

Collicutt said a number of residents believe that Willow Avenue would be a better bikeway corridor. She asked if the city could consider leaving Maple Avenue as the transit corridor and making Willow Avenue the bicycle corridor.

“Providing safe access for some segments of our population cannot be to the detriment of others,” said Collicutt. “All users of Maple Avenue, a 100-year-old boulevard in a 100-year-old heritage neighbourhood, must be treated with concern and respect. Whatever changes are considered must work for everyone and they must be safe for everyone.”

Councillor Earl Almeida said councillors were nowhere near to making a decision on the project right now.

Councillor Rob Southcott said he appreciated the full gallery in council chambers for the issue and for doing all the work that supported the petition and presentation.