Pelham Town Council circumvented some added bureaucracy at its December 16 meeting, unanimously voting to remove the traffic “chicane” that narrows Haist Street north of Highway 20.
The widely lambasted traffic-calming measure has drawn criticism from local residents for its confusing double-yield sign design, as well as challenges over its very necessity.
The matter wasn’t even on the docket at council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, but Ward 2 Councillor Ron Kore brought it up and wouldn’t let it go after a discussion about another traffic-calming project in the Rice-Port Robinson Roads area.
Public Works Director Jason Marr advised against voting to remove the Haist Street chicane—installed in 2015 to the consternation of many residents in the area—saying that it would be better for Pelham’s Active Transportation Committee to return a policy report first.
“Today we don’t have that policy. Why can’t we remove it and then vote on the policy later,” he said. “I don’t get that.”
Last August, Haist Street residents Oscar Weiland and Geoff Lowe made a presentation to council that included a petition signed by approximately 190 people that supported ridding the roadway of the contraption that forces oncoming traffic to yield to each other. Weiland complained that trucks bound for his farm further north on Haist often can’t get through the narrow passageway.
Mayor Marvin Junkin seemed to side with staff on the issue, but ultimately left the decision up to council.
“I don’t understand what the rush is to put this to vote before we have a staff report, but that’s just me,” he said.
CAO David Cribbs conceded that there appears to be enough consensus now to abandon the chicane, referring to the petition and the fact that another staff report on the issue would require needlessly duplicating that process.
“Council at the end of the day remains supreme,” he said. “It would absurdist to force people to re-sign something.”
The chicane isn’t going anywhere yet, however, mostly because it’s winter. Marr doesn’t expect it to be removed until at least the summer, with road resurfacing needed, post-knock-down.
“To be clear,” he said, “that work will not take place until we have a contractor aboard.”
Councillor John Wink included an amendment to include a three-way stop at Haist and Brewerton Boulevard, just north of the chicane site. While this in theory would create a new traffic-calming measure to offset the loss of the chicane, Marr said that existing traffic engineering has determined a stop sign isn’t warranted at the intersection.
“It would, however, resolve sightline issues that are in place,” he said.
Elderly homeowners seek fee relief
Council heard a presentation from Quaker Road resident Del Laney, who finds herself at the mercy of the Town’s bylaw rules in regards to having a rental unit inside her house, while needing to pay for accessibility renovations. Laney and her husband Rick originally built a “granny suite” for her mother in 1999. After her mother died, they rented the unit out to another elderly person. There were no issues with this arrangement until 2015, when the Laneys were involved in a serious automobile accident that rendered her husband disabled. Their subsequent attempts to make accessibility upgrades to the house have hit the brick wall of bureaucracy, with the Town—per provincial requirements— telling them they must pay to re-zone their property as a triplex before they can be granted a necessary building permit.
“This is a human rights issue,” Laney said. “I didn’t think anybody would say no to accessibility. This is no more than a cash-grab.”
Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens sympathized with the Laneys, but said that because their neighbourhood is zoned “R1” — meaning single-family dwellings only — rules are rules.
“Staff are certainly understanding of Mr. and Mrs. Laney’s position and their need for the renovations but we’re caught in this predicament where the current house doesn’t meet the zoning bylaw requirements,” Wiens said.
Laney didn’t put a price tag on the cost of the accessibility upgrades, but said it was “major,” and may require an elevator for her husband.
Notably silent on the issue was Ron Kore, who has vocally opposed the idea of basement apartments and secondary units in Pelham homes.
Mayor Junkin asked an emotional Laney for understanding as council tries to come to some resolution on the matter.
“You do have to appreciate there’s a process that has to be followed,” the Mayor said. “We will work with you.”
Following in camera discussion, council ultimately decided to fast-track the Laneys’ application, but not waive any fees.
Odds and ends
Council’s new $65,000 video system failed its first test, with only audio of the meetings available on the Town’s YouTube page.
“New technology hiccup,” Communications and Public Relations Specialist Marc MacDonald told the Voice. “Our IT staff is on it and will have it up and running for the New Year.”
The new system features multiple cameras in the council chamber that switch to the speaker based on microphone activation.
The Committee of the Whole received an outline of finance-related policies. As part of the Town of Pelham 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, the Town committed to the following as part of the strategic priority to “Ensure Financial Sustainability”: Its Update Reserves Policy, Develop Debt Policy and Develop Cash Management Policy.
Also, as of January 6, the EarlyON child and family centre formerly located at the Fenwick United Church will relocate to Old Pelham Town Hall, on Canboro Road in Fenwick.
UPDATED 01/05/20 to clarify that provincial, not Town, regulations apply in the matter of the Laneys’ residential rezoning and renovations.