Another long discussion leading to the January 21 decision on revisiting the angle/parallel parking issue in downtown Smiths Falls faced those attending Committee of the Whole Monday night. Some questions that needed to be answered, were; further opinions were given, and the mandate of the new council was re-stated.
Councillor Wendy Alford, at the end of an already long meeting, re-introduced the issue. After thoroughly reading through all the information presented to the previous council, her opinion was during the public consultation parts “the evidence was not overwhelming one way or the other” (angle versus parallel). About the survey taken by the Downtown Business Association (DBA), she noted that 22 of 140 businesses had responded — “not a big snapshot.” When you drill down into the comments, she continued, the questions most important were those “showcasing the downtown as a destination, linking the street to the waterfront, enhancing visual exposure of business frontages and signage, and maintaining adequate parking spots.”
This information, she said, was provided to the previous council. However, “this council wants to look at it, too.”
Alford continued: “A lot of the direction to consultants came out of the Official Plan (adopted by council 2014, approved by council 2016). The Strategic Plan was completed in 2013 and set out priorities — building a diverse economy with a strong business section, creating a healthy environment for residents, investing in our infrastructure, redeveloping the downtown waterfront. This fueled the direction to the consultants.
“Experts recommended Option 2 as did the staff. I will continue to search out people on both sides of the equation.
“This revisiting is definitely warranted.”
With strong feelings about revisiting, Councillor Brennan pointed out that staff, over the past 10 months, had diligently been directed to work towards the angle parking option. Rather than put that aside he suggested there could be enough commonality in the two options. “My plea is to work together on Option 1.”
Councillor Alford said a revisiting would get to the heart of some of the difficulties. When the options were originally presented, people began to voice their opinions. But “the quiet voices stopped talking out loud,” she said. “They were attacked. Business owners were threatened with loss of business. They were unwilling to run the risk of social media backlash.”
She reiterated again. “This is a once in a lifetime decision. This council was elected with a resounding majority. This revisit is fair.”
Councillor McGuire was insistent on cost, and fiscal responsibility. Being unsure, as of yet, of the $3 million grant from Connecting Links, was new information. If that’s not available, there are other money decisions that have to be made, he said.
Whether last council’s decision could be changed was answered by Clerk Kerry Costello after consulting with a registered Parliamentarian and Robert’s Rules of Order. “At this point in the process, it’s not impossible to be undone.”
CAO Malcolm Morris added that nothing had been finalized yet; a tender for the work has not been issued or awarded, the Town has not committed to anything [regarding the options] that can’t be reversed.
Troy Dunlop, Director of Public Works and Utilities, added that the “luxury we can’t buy is time. We need to receive direction on the final solution.”
“The mandate of the new council is to look at the community in a new and fresh way,” said Councillor McKenna, “and make decisions significant to the future.
“I want to look at the best interests of the entire population, not just those who drive cars.” And he also spoke about those 15-year-olds who are “our responsibility, who don’t vote or pay taxes.”
He noted that “three of the four who voted against a complete streetscape were not re-elected, and the community voted for a different view, a different voice.
“I’m open to having a different look on behalf of our children, and a much more welcoming downtown.”
Councillor Dwyer commented she didn’t love either option, she was adamant the past council respectively considered all of the information, and she “would not vote in favour of reconsidering.”
CAO Morris had the last word of the discussion. “The new council cannot reconsider a previous decision but has every right under Robert’s Rules of Order and the Municipal Act to rescind a decision” and replace it with a new one.
The decision to revisit will be finalized next week