Sidewalk likely scrapped over resident complaints

A priority sidewalk project in Orléans will likely be scrapped because of complaints from residents who don’t want it crossing through their driveways, a move one advocate calls a risk to public safety.

Advocate says councillors are flouting city policy for 'squeaky wheels'

Residents on Sunview Drive petitioned their councillor to scrap a plan to build a sidewalk on the east side of the street. (Laura Osman/ CBC)

A priority sidewalk project in Orléans​ will likely be scrapped because of complaints from residents who don't want a sidewalk crossing through their driveways, a move one advocate calls a risk to public safety.

City staff deemed adding a sidewalk to the east side of Sunview Drive a priority to connect people in the neighbourhood to a local park, transit stops and a nearby school.

Councillors, however, voted to scrap the sidewalk from the city's pedestrian plan at a transportation committee meeting last Wednesday.

"On the one hand they support a city policy of pedestrian connectedness … and then on the other hand they can punt priority projects," said Robb Barnes, executive director of Ecology Ottawa, a non-profit volunteer organization that promotes environmental issues.

"It just seems kind of self-defeating."

Cost, parking biggest concerns

Coun. Jody Mitic, who represents Innes ward, put the motion forward after receiving multiple complaints from homeowners who did not want a sidewalk in front of their homes.

Mitic was not at the committee because he had the flu, so his motion passed without debate. He did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

In the city's report, Mitic said a resident petition opposing the sidewalk was signed by "nearly every resident on the east side of the street."

I just didn't think it was necessary.- Kathryn Stonier, homeowner

"I just didn't think it was necessary," said Kathryn Stonier, who lives on the street and rarely sees people walking around.

People in the neighbourhood have landscaping and interlock driveways that would be ruined by new sidewalks, she said.

Mitic was also concerned about the "exorbitant" million-dollar cost of the sidewalk.

There is a sidewalk on the other side of the street, and residents said they were satisfied with that.

Councillors not following policy

But not everyone in the neighbourhood agrees. Tammam Harb, who lives one street over, often runs in the area and said another sidewalk on the other side of the road would come in handy.

"I usually have to run on the street," he said.
City staff made the planned sidewalk a priority to connect pedestrians to bus stops like this one, as well as a park and school. (Laura Osman/ CBC)

The decision to deprive the community of a sidewalk because of "squeaky wheels" is against the city's own policies, Barnes said.

"If you have a weak councillor that listens to the concerns of a few car owners over the public interest ... you can have tremendous problems down the road," he said.

He's particularly concerned about children attempting to get to Henry Larsen Elementary School. The school is on the side of the road that has a sidewalk, but Barnes said some children will have to cross to get there.

He said city policy is clear about making sure pedestrian pathways are well connected and safe, and that agreeing to scrap a priority sidewalk goes against that policy.

Kanata sidewalk scrapped last year

This situation is similar to another sidewalk that was removed from the construction plan last year.

In that case, Coun. Allan Hubley had a large portion of a sidewalk scheduled to be constructed on Chimo Drive in Kanata postponed until after 2020, following public outcry.

The people whose homes the sidewalk would connect with signed a petition and told the councillor they didn't want it.

Hubley told CBC in May 2017 it made sense to comply with the majority of people who would have been most affected by the sidewalk.
When faced with a similar sidewalk situation last year, Coun. Allan Hubley said council should listen to the people most affected. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

"Why throw a whole bunch of money into a sidewalk that nobody wants and nobody needs?" he said.

The street is only used for local residents, and there is a shared-use path directly behind the homes, Hubley said.

Council will have the final say about whether to scrap the Sunview sidewalk at the end of the month.