Brief is the only word to describe the two delegations at Committee of the Whole Monday evening in Smiths Falls. Despite loud protests from outside — barking dog, honking horns and hollering — two men stood, presented (within a short space of less than 10 minutes each when they were allowed 20), and sat.
Vince Hamilton spoke first noting he was not representing a group but many individuals, and Justin Duhamel spoke second, as a delegation of one. His was the more cogent, passionate one using anecdotes from his canvassing of the business community during his talk.
Hamilton’s presentation was number heavy and factual; Duhamel spoke from the heart.
Hamilton said he had petitions containing 2,607 names. The petition was very clear, he added, to revisit and reverse council’s decision for Option 1. “It was clear in its request for a public forum.
“These people want a public forum — a real public forum, which you have consistently denied,” he added.
He continued that door-to-door canvassing had just started, and then read a list of 35 Smiths Falls’ businesses all with petitions “requesting a public meeting.”
Justin Duhamel stepped up to the podium. He confessed that it was his voice council had been hearing outside at the megaphone over the past three weeks. He wanted council to hear his situation.
“My family owns the building at Russell and Beckwith on the west-side corner; there are nine apartments upstairs, some two-bedroom. They rely heavily on street-level parking. Plus there are multiple ground level units that rely on parking.”
He continued that in the near future with the completion, and opening, of the Rideau Hotel with ground level retail, there would be an increase in demand for parking while a decrease in the supply of parking. “We’ll be facing a crisis.”
He added some thoughts on the unfairness of the issue not being addressed during the election campaign. “A lot of people feel very sore about that. They were basically led to believe that this was settled, and now realize it wasn’t.”
He spoke briefly about other business owners he’d approached. “A lot of these people aren’t political,” he emphasized. “They’re trying to do their jobs, trying to fuel the economy, to make the economy run.”
He went on: “We’re being faced with two summers of construction on Beckwith St. This is compounded by a serious reduction in the capacity of parking while at the same time we’re anticipating a dramatic increase in economic activity and demand for service downtown.”
In his opinion he told council they were “committing a planning malpractice by making a choice that dramatically reduces the capacity for people to access the core of the Town.
“There’s a rift in the Town,” he added, “almost a civil war. Businesses are feeling threatened,” he said, acknowledging that some council members felt threatened in the process, too.
He concluded, that, in his opinion, “the only solution is to reverse the decision that was made here and go back to an angle arrangement.
“That’s what I’m asking you to do.”
Photo caption: Justin Duhamel asked council to reverse its decision about angle parking Monday night.