Beacon change unlikely

Proponent of two-way street says having the debate with the Town of Sidney is a start

Sidney residents and business owners filled a room at the Mary Winspear Centre Jan. 23 to review potential changes to Beacon Avenue.

Sidney residents and business owners filled a room at the Mary Winspear Centre Jan. 23 to review potential changes to Beacon Avenue.

As Sidney politicians vowed to keep open minds on the subject of traffic patterns on the main street, one proponent of change said it is unlikely that the street would be changed any time soon.

Steve Duck, owner of the TIDES Group and member of the Sidney Tourism Improvement Group (STIG), says he feels public input will come out in support of the existing mixed street configuration. STIG has been trying to convince business owners and municipal council of the merits — in both the economy and in tourism — for converting Beacon Avenue back to its pre-1996 two-way traffic pattern.

“The goal was to engage people,” Duck said. “It was more about the discussion and how the street will look in the end.”

Duck spoke at a town-sponsored open house on Thursday, Jan. 23 at the Mary Winspear Centre. People were lined up prior to the event’s 4 p.m. start time, which demonstrated the interest in the issue.

Town councillor Steve Price said the efforts of STIG have really engaged the community. While Price said he was trying to keep an open mind and hear what people had to say, the municipality has to take future planning issues into consideration, no matter how the Beacon Avenue direction matter plays out.

“Plans for a new interchange by the Ministry (of Transportation) on the Pat Bay Highway will change all of the different traffic patters,” Price said.

He was pointing to a years-old planning document that could see a new interchange that would use Bevan Avenue as the main entry into Sidney form the highway — relegating Beacon to more of a local business route. Those plans have been around for years, however, and there’s no guarantee they will come to pass. Price said, however, they have to be part of the council’s overall planning process.

Coun. Marilyn Loveless said she really wants to hear from everyone on the subject — not just from proponents of certain directions who are pushing their agenda hard.

“We want more information out there,” she said, “so that both the public and the council can be better guided in a decision.”

Denis Paquette, president of STIG, said when it comes to Beacon Avenue, the devil is in the details — both in the potential costs associated with change, and in the decision-making process. Paquette, who has been trying to get Beacon a two-way route for years, said access is the main issue — no matter how the council decides in the end.

“There’s a whole issue of how it’s not easy to get in and out of Sidney,” he said, adding every day at his hotel his staff are explaining to people how to navigate the mixed two-and-one-way street.

Paquette added he doesn’t want to see any roadblocks to better access  of downtown Sidney.

Sidney’s Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said public feedback will be collected and used by council in its ongoing debate on the future of Beacon. Irrespective of the traffic flow, he continued, there’s a long-range vision for the downtown core — from pedestrian improvements to benches and other beautification. All of these issues were presented at the open house for feedback.