Shire Hall

Tearing a new entrance

Posted: February 24, 2017 at 9:08 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mayor seeks support to download a portion of Loyalist Parkway

Adeveloper wants to build approximately 350 homes on the west side of Picton. But the Ministry of Transport (MTO) would rather the County not create another intersection, potentially slowing traffic on the Loyalist Parkway between the traffic circle and Talbot Street. So far, MTO officials have been unmoved by arguments made by County officials that it needs residential development—particularly new homes in urban areas served by municipal water and sewer.

Mayor Robert Quaiff was set to meet with the provincial agency on Tuesday. He wanted to go into that meeting with some leverage—a demonstration of the County seriousness. If the province wasn’t willing to play ball, Quaiff wanted that section of the Loyalist Parkway—about 1.8 kilometres— downloaded to the municipality.

The province owns few County roads— not since it downloaded hundreds of kilometres after amalgamation. So many roads were downloaded then, that the municipality has no realistic prospect of maintaining and replacing them as they inevitably decay.

MTO officials were understandably surprised by the mayor’s request. No municipality has asked for additional roads to be downloaded. A great many have tried to give their roads back, but no community has asked for more kilometres to manage. There is no mechanism for that. No policy to guide the confused MTO officials.

It is hard to know if Mayor Quaiff was entirely serious—unclear just how far he would go to clear the obstacles in front of this residential development. But for the purposes of this week’s meeting it didn’t matter. Quaiff was looking for a bit of shock and awe, to move MTO bureaucrats from their dug-in positions.

Quaiff had already appealed up the food chain without result. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca was sympathetic but unwilling to intervene.

Running low on options, Quaiff asked his council colleagues last week to support his bid to take on this stretch of roadway—gambit or otherwise. He eventually got it—but it wasn’t easy.

Ameliasburgh councillor Roy Pennell pointed out that the County can’t keep up with the roads it has now.

Works commissioner Robert McAuley acknowledged that there would be incremental costs related to acquiring the 1.8 -kilometre section—but said the upside potential for new revenue from an increase to the tax base of 350 homes as well as new customers on the waterworks system would be far be far greater.

Meanwhile, Hallowell councillor Gord Fox didn’t see how this was the County’s problem.

“How much is it going to cost to build an entrance to someone else’s business?” asked Fox. “We are having problems with congestion already.”

Mayor Quaiff said any costs incurred to create and entrance or intersection would be the responsibility of the developer

North Marysburgh councillor David Harrison wasn’t convinced. He wanted to see the numbers before supporting the notion.

He added that as a member of the Land Evaluation and Area Review committee considering, in some cases, rezoning marginal land as prime agriculture, that the idea of building homes on fertile land, despite its zoning, was wrong.

Others, however, were more understanding of the need to support Mayor Quaiff. They’ve seen the population drop for the second census in a row. They know that costs for waterworks and infrastructure are pushing folks from their homes and making life unaffordable for many.

“The mayor has made a forceful argument,” said Sophiasburgh councillor Bill Roberts. “We need to give him the leverage he is asking for. That is what negotiation is.”

Roberts reminded his colleagues that some municipalities are paying for residential units to be built in their communities in order to stimulate growth in the tax base.

South Marysburgh councillor Steve Ferguson described it as an opportunity.

“We don’t have a lot of relief for waterworks ratepayers,” said Ferguson. “I fear a huge cost if we don’t support the mayor.”

Picton councillor Lenny Epstein was supportive of the mayor—but baffled that low-ranking provincial bureaucrats could frustrate the considered ambitions of the County.

“How can they contradict our Official Plan and Secondary Plan?” asked Epstein. “Plans approved by the province.”

McAuley noted that the County’s plans govern land use, that the MTO decides who can have access to the roadway. In fact, MTO officials aren’t technically blocking access to the property—proposing instead that any entrance to the development be created on Talbot Street rather than the Loyalist Parkway.

In the end, the mayor received enough support that he was able go into his meeting on Tuesday with a councilapproved negotiating stick.