Lane Creek cuts deep and runs long
Lane Creek is a tiny waterway that runs through the village of Wellington and into Lake Ontario, in front of the Drake Devonshire property. Behind CML Snider school it carves a small, well-landscaped crevice that curls eastward out of town, a lovely spot to spend a few moments of quiet contemplation, especially during fish-spawning season, when the natural habitat comes alive with aquatic creatures hurrying toward a pivotal moment in their lives.
But within the County, the creek has carved a much larger crevice, especially where it pools and eddies underneath the buildings on the Northwest corner of Wharf and Main, the only traffic lights in the village and the centre of town.
In 2011, during a routine inspection, the County learned of problems arising from the poor design of a building more than a century old with no protection from the creek below. The floor of the former Rock’n Rogers restaurant was bowing into the open space below, and the corner store was experiencing structural problems.
The answer was to build a culvert under Wharf Street. It would re-route the creek slightly, sending the water under the road and reconnecting with its natural path at the Devonshire. Staff came up with the plan, working with Quinte Conservation and the Ministry of Natural Resources to ensure that plan didn’t have a negative impact on spawning fish. Permits were issued, and work was ready to go ahead.
Then, in 2015, the County purchased the property that included the corner store and the former Rock’n Rogers restaurant, issuing a press release to let residents know the buildings would be removed and the creek opened up into a parkette or parking lot.
Reaction was swift and rife with outrage. Few residents agreed that the village’s tiny centre of commerce was the right spot for a parkette, less so a parking lot. Some wanted to see the building remain standing, but most wanted to ensure some kind of building remained.
So the County held off. A public meeting was held in late 2015, and Wellington Town Hall was overflowing with concerned residents. The stores remained closed, vibrant storefronts maintained by the Wellington and District Business Association. Staff ordered an engineering report, promising a second town hall meeting once that report was in hand.
It took 16 months. The buildings sat vacant. The summer of 2016 came and went. Every so often a question would arise—from a council member, from a resident, from a member of the heritage committee—about when the engineering department would announce the next step.
The County’s permit to build a culvert expired.
Finally, the report was released. Staff returned to council last week with three options. The first: move the building back and reroute the creek. The second: demolish the building and reroute the creek, selling an empty building lot. The third: demolish the building and create a parkette over the open creek, allowing it to remain in its current path.
Wellington resident Pamela Carter spoke to council on behalf of a group of residents in Wellington concerned about the future of the building and its heritage value.
“This building has been the heart of the village forever, and the clear message from everyone over the last two years has always been to find a way to rejuvenate the commercial residential viability of that all-important corner,” Carter told council.
Carter brought a petition with 300 signatures from residents concerned with preserving the corner store. She also pointed to Wellington’s secondary plan and its direction to protect the heritage of its neighbourhoods.
She was not alone. Two other Wellington residents also spoke in favour of the option to move and sell the building, partly because of its heritage value and partly because its net cost— $134,020—is lower than the other options.
Ted Aman, who owns the butcher shop behind the buildings, wants to see something done with the property, but was not concerned about preserving the corner store.
“The building is tired. We need to move forward and create something new there that would rejuvenate the downtown or at least improve the downtown,” Aman told council. “We don’t always have to look backwards, if we look backwards all the time, nothing would ever be new in our community.”
The trouble is, with the original project expired, the County will have to reapply for a permit, and if the plan changes, that could take some time. The County’s preferred option would be the first—to reroute the creek through a culvert on Wharf Street. McAuley clarified that the three options in the report to council are alternatives.
“After all these three options are put back through the original filters… then a different conclusion may come up entirely,” McAuley told council. “Before you can put everything to bed and get the permits renewed and commence construction, we have to re-engage the process, re-examine the preferred solution, perhaps change it, and then go from there.”
Wellington councillor Jim Dunlop was concerned about the timing.
public about the one, two and three and the costs associated are a bit misleading because of the issue of all the next steps that the commissioner is pointing out about constructability,” Dunlop said. “There’s no sense of sending three proposals in if the ministry doesn’t approve whatever option we’d want to go to. Because if the public says they like option one, and if the ministry doesn’t approve it, we’re back to square one.”
The next step is to have that second public meeting. Engineering and works Commissioner McAuley says that should happen this fall.
The public meeting will allow residents to understand the available options, ask questions, voice concerns and give council an idea of what will best fit the town. Still, that is only one part of the process.
“We can’t just jump on option one,” McAuley explained, pointing to residents’ concern with preserving the building. “It has to go through the process again and option one may not be the outcome in the overall, filtered process. It may still be Wharf Street. I simply don’t know.”
McAuley says the earliest any work would begin would be after the summer season next year.