Norfolk County is bracing for a flood of expensive requests now that the municipality has reversed itself on the question of a sidewalk on Cockshutt Road in Port Dover.
At its meeting March 9, Norfolk council voted for paved bike lanes on both sides of Cockshutt Road between Dover Mills Road and Ryerse Crescent at an estimated cost of $70,000.
On March 16, council opted for a more expensive sidewalk on the east side of Cockshutt Road after revisiting the issue. The estimated cost here is $170,000.
Minds changed on March 13 when Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin invited Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele and Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts on a walking tour of the area in question. Both were moved by residents’ concerns over fast-moving traffic and pedestrian safety.
“It’s clear to me that an investment in infrastructure is needed in that area,” Rabbitts said. “I can think of many streets and arteries in my own town. I’m struggling with what is right and good. The gravel is so bad you can see where people are walking in the ditch. There’s a path there.
“I expect my phone to blow up with similar requests going forward.”
Rabbitts didn’t have to wait for the phone to ring. Charlotteville Coun. Chris VanPaassen, who supports the bicycle-lane option, cited several serious incidents in the area of Radical Road and Vittoria Road in recent months where cyclists and pedestrians have had close encounters with vehicular traffic.
VanPaassen specifically mentioned the serious incident on Vittoria Road this weekend where a pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries after being struck by a vehicle.
“Where’s the budget for Ward 4 sidewalks?” VanPaassen said. “Where’s the budget for all rural sidewalks? Once you set the capital budget, leave it alone and let staff do their job.”
CAO Jason Burgess agreed that spot decisions in a specific location can set expensive precedents when they deviate from established municipal policy.
As well, Burgess said spot additions to the capital budget after it is set cause problems in the area of “asset management.” Burgess is also concerned about “the precedent” council has set by approving a project that will prompt a flood of similar requests.
Martin agreed with these points, but said the matter is urgent and the risk of pedestrian injury is high.
“Sure, we don’t want to get into setting a precedent,” Martin said. “But this is about public safety. They (residents) feel they’ve waited long enough.”
Norfolk council has discussed the Cockshutt issue on numerous occasions in recent months. The March 16 discussion grew heated when Mayor Kristal Chopp attempted to call the vote at a time when Martin was seeking to speak to the issue a third time.
Martin, who can be a stickler for procedural rectitude, challenged Chopp’s assertion that she was trying to speak a third time. As the pair dickered, Chopp – without mentioning names – suggested that a certain council member who lives in the Pineridge Estates subdivision next to the proposed sidewalk should have disclosed that somewhere along the way.
In reply, Martin called a point of personal privilege, after which she defended her conduct. Martin says she does not have a conflict-of-interest regarding the matter and therefore has nothing to disclose.
At this point, Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus weighed in on the side of Martin, saying the mayor’s insinuation was uncalled for.
“You were in the wrong,” Columbus told the mayor. “What you did is not right. In my 35 years as a councillor, what you did is a disgrace.”