Smiths Falls town councillors are being asked to choose between maintaining Beckwith Street’s “unique” angle parking, or using some of the street’s unusual width to create wider sidewalks and add bicycle lanes.
After gathering public input into a plan to redevelop the town’s main thoroughfare from Chambers Street north to Elmsley, Ron Clarke, vice-president of the Parsons engineering firm presented councillors with three options at a Dec. 18 meeting. The meeting was held at the Kinsmen Pavilion at Lower Reach Park in order to accommodate Councillor Lorraine Allen, who is forced to use a wheelchair while recovering from an ankle injury. The regular council chambers at the town hall are accessible only by a single set of steep stairs, so council will be meeting at the Pavilion into January.
In the first of three options developed following working group and public meetings, Clarke said the town could go ahead and replace the aging infrastructure and roadbed on Beckwith while maintaining the existing angle parking. If maximizing the number of parking spaces downtown is a priority, he added, 20 more spaces could be created by making the existing spaces narrower.
The second option would see the installation of parallel parking. This would create sufficient room to maintain three lanes for traffic, plus two parking lanes and two cycling lanes.
The third suggested option would be to install parallel parking without cycling lanes, but with wider sidewalks. Wider sidewalks, said Clarke, would create space for outdoor patios, street retailing, special events and festivals, trees and planters, and other elements intended to enhance the quality of life downtown.
Clarke said that although both angle and parallel parking have their pros and cons, there is evidence that angle parking results in fewer collisions, and is safer for both pedestrians and cars. He added that based on feedback at public meetings, many people in town feel strongly about parking downtown, and whatever option council chooses won’t please everyone.
Councillor Chris Cummings commented that as someone who has worked downtown for a number of years, he agreed that angle parking isn’t the safest option. Cummings said he was not in favour of increasing the number of spaces by making them smaller, since many of the vehicles parking downtown tend to be pickup trucks. “Narrowing the spaces would not, in my opinion, be a very smart thing to do,” he said.
Councillor Dawn Quinn said she would vote to keep the angle parking. “There’s an awful lot of people saying, ‘We like the angle parking,’ and those people should be listened to,” she said.
“We’ve got something that’s unique, and I don’t want to see it changed,” agreed Councillor Joe Gallipeau.
Mayor Shawn Pankow urged fellow councillors to consider the long-term impact of whatever decision they make. “We have this unique opportunity that will not be present again for another 50 to 100 years.”
Clarke advised that a second public open house will be held in the new year to gather further input before council is asked to make a final decision.