Council was set to speed up the conversion of eight streets from one-way to two-way but a handful of Mountain councillors have put a stop to that plan.
The group of suburban councillors say lower city’s street conversions shouldn't take priority when some of their neighbourhoods don’t even have sidewalks.
The plan was ready to move ahead Wednesday. But Mountain councillors objected, saying those projects shouldn’t be jumping the queue.
The debate, lower city versus the Mountain, lasted more than an hour. Coun. Scott Duvall of Ward 7 says there are streets in his ward that are much less walkable than some of downtown’s two-way streets.
“I know a lot of people are frustrated, and there are advocacy groups about one-way, two-way, two-way, one-way,” he said. “All we’re asking for are basic needs. For sidewalks, and my god, why can’t we have that? Please?”
“I wish everybody would go see some other wards and not just one particular parochial one.”
Nowhere for children to stand while waiting for buses
There are places in Ward 8 where children wait for buses without sidewalks, and there’s nowhere for them to stand in the winter, said Coun. Terry Whitehead.
“What you’re saying is let’s prioritize the two-way conversion of streets at the expense of other areas of this community.”
Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 said he was “somewhat offended” by the implication that lower-city councillors are parochial. But everyone agreed that other areas deserve attention too.
Council voted to convert Rebecca Street between John and Wellington using $50,000 from a traffic calming reserve. It also stripped the word “accelerate,” which means city staff will simply look into how to pay for the eight other conversions.
Staff will also report back on other roads that need attention, such as sidewalks and culverts.
That suited Duvall.
Coun. Farr: 'Two-way street conversions in his ward benefit everyone'
“I just got a little uptight that they could be jumping the queue,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen.”
Nearly every councillor weighed in with works that’s needed in their wards. Duvall disagreed with the assumption that councillors were speaking up in part because of the October municipal election.
“I know that’s not why I was doing it,” he said.
Coun. Jason Farr represents Ward 2, which includes the downtown. Two-way street conversions in his ward benefit everyone, he said.
“Recent conversions have proven to bring to the downtown core a rejuvenation. A renaissance,” he said. “We all have across the city, in every ward, benefited.”
Also at Wednesday's meeting:
- City council voted to allow Little Ray's Reptile Zoo on Barton Street East to bring back a number of banned pythons and other reptiles, pending accreditation from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Little Ray's hopes to get that accreditation in September.
- City council will move ahead with a plan to designate King George school as a heritage building, which could complicate plans for a new north high school the public school board plans to build on the property. City manager Chris Murray said the biggest complication would be the board not being able to build a sports field, but that students could use nearby city facilities.