Forum set for Beacon direction

Public forum, online survey highlights of consultation

A plan for public input on the issue of traffic direction on Sidney’s main street includes asking residents and business owners a single question:  Should Beacon Avenue remain one-way between Fifth and Second streets?

Sidney council on Tuesday night approved their consultation effort on the ongoing issue over traffic flow on Beacon Avenue. While appearing to be a robust process, the consultation mostly involves distributing information about process and feedback deadlines.

Where residents will get the chance for direct feedback will be in an online survey posted on the Town’s website in early December and council is planning on a public forum at the Mary Winspear Centre early next year.

Local business owners have been mounting a growing effort to force town council to return the street to a full two-way traffic flow, as it was prior to 1997. Proponents of the two-way system say the change could help the downtown’s economic fortunes if drivers have better access to the area and are not forced away due to the partial one-way section of Beacon Avenue and poor signage.

Other ideas have come up in discussions, such as making the downtown core a pedestrian mall — an idea that Town staff say is years away from consideration.

“The real focus,” said Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble, “is one-way versus two-way.”

Humble said including the pedestrian-only option would only confuse the whole process. Councillor Steve Price suggested that the idea not be thrown out entirely and that the consultation should take the pulse of the community on the matter.

“The issue here is the raising of expectations on a short-term timetable,” Humble replied. “A pedestrian mall or shared street concept are in the Town’s long-term downtown planning process.”

Mayor Larry Cross agreed, saying the Town wants clarity on the one-way versus two-way options.

“Let’s do this in a robust way, if we are going to do this,” Cross added.

In the Town’s consultation plan on Beacon Avenue, there will be mail-outs, newsletters, flyers, advertisements and online information made available on the process. Some of that will include, according to a staff report, cost estimates on changing Beacon’s traffic pattern. Staff will do a detailed analysis but an early cost estimate in the report states it will be $150,000 to $250,000, depending on function, safety and aesthetics. The report notes that the cost of any change “may affect the public’s decision on whether to support a change.”

The report also notes the cost of the consultation itself could be significant. A planned online survey using Granicus software will cost $450 per month. There’s also the cost of postage, ads and hosting the public forum. A final price tag had not yet been determined.

Council was unanimous in its support for the consultation effort. It is estimated to get underway by Nov. 25, with completion in the new year to allow for the holiday season.

Consultation timeline

• Nov. 25 – post public consultation information on the Town of Sidney website

• Early December – launch and promote online survey

• Dec. 2-13 – distribute flyers to publicize consultation process and forum

• Jan. 23, 2014 – public forum at Mary Winspear Centre (details to come)

• Jan. 30, 2014 – Town Talk article as final reminder of consultation effort

• Feb. 11, 2014 – deadline to submit feedback to Town

• Feb. 24, 2014 – summary of feedback to Town council.