By Mike Williscraft
In a 5-3 recorded vote, Grimsby council refused to take a stand on whether or not it supports a Livingston Road extension.
After a Public Works Committee meeting last Wednesday, Aug. 16, which had more than 100 packing town hall to standing room only and Monday’s council meeting which had about 80 in attendance, council did not answer Niagara Region’s request for direction on the extension issue.
At Public Works, Region’s director of public works Ron Tripp confirmed that the request from his colleagues seeking a for or against position was to give guidance on including the estimated $8.1 million project in the Transportation Master Plan, which is currently in the works.
On Monday, council passed a recommendation made by Grimsby director of public works Bob LeRoux which suggested that council “neither supports nor opposes a Livingston Avenue extension and would prefer to see the results of an Environmental Assessment on this matter prior to considering our position and further that the 2017 Niagara Region Transportation Master Plan reflect this.”
Mayor Bob Bentley as well as aldermen Steve Berry, John Dunstall, Joanne Johnston and Dave Wilson voted in favour of the motion in a recorded vote, while aldermen Michelle Seaborn, Dave Kadwell and Carolyn Mullins voted against it.
The debate was lengthy and detailed at both meetings with a great deal of information being covered.
Council was very much hung up on the question of having the extension removed from plans before an Environmental Assessment study is completed for the area.
With the GO station in the works, EAs for both Casablanca and the extension have been planned. The Livingston EA was supposed to be done back in 2014, said extension opponent Bruce MacKenzie. But it was held in abeyance. MacKenzie noted there was never any public information as to why it was started in 2014 or why it got mothballed with no notice.
While the vast majority of the gallery at both meetings opposed the Livingston extension, some property owners were on hand at both meetings to tell council the road should go through as planned.
Representatives for three-quarters of the eight family members which owns the Hunter Road woodlot parcel of land attended both meetings. They said they would like to see the road built as it was set out when the land was expropriated from them in 1972.
As well, George Trifunovic noted his family owns a 21-acre parcel of land which extends from Main Street West north to the CN tracks.
He said a hike/bike trail would sever his properties split by the expropriated right-of-way, which is 100 ft wide.
A road would allow for accesses for each property, allowing them to move farm equipment across the road, which he said a walk path would not do.
Trifunovic also said a path would lead to bonfires and vandalism initiated by “out-of-town revellers”.
Ald. Steve Berry, among others, noted a significant disconnect with this thinking.
“I miss the connection. I respectfully disagree that the wild west would form,” said Berry.
MacKenzie, who was initially told he would not be permitted to address council, was allowed, when council passed a special motion to allow anyone who spoke at Public Works an opportunity to present.
He outlined several points in the process to date which he believed were flawed and an attempt to keep information from the public about what was happening with the extension project.
When the discussion focused on the extension itself, at several points it was steered back to include matters of the EA.
CAO Derik Brandt, “clarified” for council that it does not matter if the extension is included in the Region’s transportation Master Plan or not. It may or may not be built regardless of its inclusion.
Ald. Dave Wilson questioned why the EA would be done at all given that the Greenbelt legislation has ceased any rezoning and development.
Ald. Michelle Seaborn agreed saying a new road would be “a road to nowhere.”
She said, to loud applause, the EA should be shelved at least 10 years and the extension put on hold. “We should put it on the shelf for the time being”, she said.