British Columbia

B.C. town bylaw creates $10K 'sidewalk to nowhere'

A 100-metre stretch of concrete on the outskirts of town has residents of Smithers, B.C., scratching their heads.

'I almost want to have a sidewalk sale, just so that it might have purpose one day'

A building permit bylaw in Smithers, B.C., has resulted in the construction of a 100-metre "sidewalk to nowhere." (Trevor Bruintjes)

A 100-metre stretch of concrete on the outskirts of town has residents of Smithers, B.C., scratching their heads.

It all started when North Central Plumbing and Heating decided to move to a then-vacant building on the frontage road along Highway 16.

The building required substantial renovations, and a Smithers bylaw requires projects over $75,000 to include public infrastructure.

The result? A short stretch of segmented concrete sidewalk about half a kilometre away from its nearest neighbour — built for about $10,000 at the expense of the building's owner, BPW holdings, which performed the upgrades.

"It literally goes absolutely nowhere," said Trevor Bruintjes, general manager of North Central Plumbing and Heating, who says his employees get questions about the sidewalk constantly.

"I almost want to have a sidewalk sale just so that it might have purpose one day."

Trevor Bruintjes says there are no other sidewalks for about 500 metres in either direction. (Trevor Bruintjes)

The sidewalk is situated along a grass boulevard that runs between the highway and the frontage road on which North Central Plumbing and Heating sits, along with a number of other businesses.

Despite its seemingly pointless nature, Bruintjes says Smithers town council was adamant the sidewalk be built.

Mayor Taylor Bachrach said council has been trying to get a sidewalk built along this particular stretch of road for some time. He said two other recent redevelopment projects in the area have also included isolated chunks of sidewalk.

"It's an area without any sidewalk that previous councils have identified as an area where we want to improve walkability," he said.

"I think that's why this has created so much public attention, is because when you look at it, it is all by itself, and it is a very short section of sidewalk that isn't connected to anything, [but] the theory is that as the properties along the frontage road are developed over time, that sidewalk will get filled in and eventually will become connected."

But Bruintjes says neighbouring businesses have done numerous smaller renovation projects over the years, meaning they've never hit the threshold to be required to build sidewalks of their own.

He thinks it could be as long as 20 years until the sidewalk actually connects to anything.

"By then, my sidewalk is probably in need of replacement," Bruintjes said.

In the meantime, Bruintjes is having some fun with the situation.

He's placed two signs along the sidewalk: at one end, a sign reading, "The end is near;" and at the other, a sign reading, "The end."

The new "sidewalk to nowhere," in all its glory. (Trevor Bruintjes)

With files from Andrew Kurjata and Josh Pagé.

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