During today’s (April 25) continuation of the Burlington City Council meeting that was recessed from Monday (April 23), a majority vote approved a motion from Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte regarding the installation of a sidewalk on Strathcona Drive. I was the sole member of Council who voted against the motion and I have outlined my reasons below in My Take.
- Proceed with a 1.8 m sidewalk on the east side of Strathcona Drive, with 1.5 m of the sidewalk to be constructed within the roadway, and 0.3 m into the existing boulevard; and
- Proceed with no sidewalks on Lorraine Crescent, Apple Valley Lane, Applevale Court and McIntosh Place; and
- Direct that construction of the sidewalk on Strathcona Drive not be subject to local improvement charges, as per Local Improvement By-law 49-2017.
- no sidewalks;
- sidewalk on the east side within the footprint of the existing road; or
- no sidewalks with painted lines on the road as a pedestrian path.
Following the meeting, city staff advised that painted lines do not meet the safety standards required by the city for safe pedestrian travel and they could not support the option of painted lines on Strathcona. Therefore, this option was removed.
A letter was hand-delivered to 453 homes in the Strathcona neighbourhood spanning the block from Walker’s Line, New Street, Belvenia Road and Lakeshore Road.
The letter outlined the two options and residents were asked to submit their feedback by completing a comment sheet or an online survey. They were also invited to a community meeting on April 15 to learn more about the two options and ask questions. Approximately 40 residents attended the meeting, including myself, Councillors Shawna Stolte and Angelo Bentivegna and city staff from Capital Works and Transportation Services.
In total, 91 households (22%) in the distribution area provided input. The results are outlined below.
|Street||Option 4 – no sidewalks||Option 6- sidewalk on the east side of Strathcona|
|West side of Strathcona Drive||14||2|
|East side of Strathcona Drive||18||7|
|TOTAL STRATHCONA DRIVE||32||9|
Plus an additional 11 surveys not included in the above totals but submitted by neighbourhood residents who live just outside the distribution area and regularly enjoy walking and biking in the Strathcona neighbourhood.
8 households wanting Option 6 (sidewalk on the east side of Strathcona)
3 households wanting Option 4 (no sidewalks)
I was the sole dissenter on this decision and here is why I voted the way I did. We cannot approve a plan that takes out green space in our communities while our City has just declared a climate emergency days before. Nor can we approve a plan that adds hard (non-permeable) infrastructure where it is not necessary and when we have an infrastructure deficit across our City. We can’t keep up with maintenance, repair and snow clearing of the roads and sidewalks we already have — it makes no sense to add more unnecessary infrastructure.
There was no demonstrated safety issue on Strathcona Drive — this is an area that has experienced 60 years of safe streets and that is not to be dismissed lightly.
My approach has always been that not every street deserves a sidewalk. We decided one wasn’t warranted on Lorraine Crescent, Apple Valley Lane, Applevale Court and McIntosh Place — was one warranted on Strathcona? It is my view that it was not.
Our City’s warrant policy led to an initial recommendation of sidewalks on both sides of Strathcona, sidewalks on many neighboring streets, massive cuts to neighbourhood trees and significant loss of green space — at a time we are trying to combat flooding and climate change with natural green space instead of hard infrastructure.
That shows that our warrant policy needs to be revisited and updated with a climate lens.
Many revisions were made since the initial proposal and many hours of work were spent doing so. I do appreciate the work and effort that went into this and the compromised motion that came forward, but in my opinion, this initiative is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist and it seems like it was done so that it appears we are doing something without meaningful increases to walkability in an area that is already safely walkable.