Sidney town councillors rebuffed a presentation by proponents of making Beacon Avenue a full two-way street, throwing cold water on a petition and peppering them with questions about facts and figures.
Denis Paquette of the Sidney Tourism Improvement Group (STIG) gave council a brief overview of their recent public forum launching their Two Way All The Way campaign.
“A petition was initiated as part of this forum and 40 businesses and property owners support Beacon Avenue as a two-way street,” he said.
Paquette added there have been online and radio polls that also indicate a lot of support for change on Beacon Avenue. STIG was formed late last year by Paquette to lobby for a two-way traffic system on the town’s main street. In a nutshell, STIG members feel doing so will attract more people to the downtown core — instead of the current one-way configuration on half of the street that they say directs people away.
Immediately following Paquette’s presentation, councillors questioned his information.
“You say 40 businesses have signed the petition,” said Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey. “Are those business owners or tenants?”
Paquette said it’s a combination of both, adding he did not have a breakdown. Lougher-Goodey then suggested Paquette do that.
Coun. Marilyn Loveless then pondered how much such a change would cost.
“This falls into the bracket of how best to spend the Town’s money,” she said. “We’ve heard varying amounts from $50,000 from one source and another (municipal staff) for an estimated $150,000 or more.”
Loveless suggested STIG needs to have specific dollar figures if it’s going to present anything to the public and local businesses.
Coun. Kenny Podmore said he think nine out of 10 people with an opinion on the matter want the street to stay the same.
“I feel (STIG) is using wrong information and is bullying people,” he said, adding he’s not confident with what STIG is saying and that not all businesses in Sidney want Beacon made a two-way street.
Coun. Steve Price asked if Steve Duck’s TIDESgroup is under contract with STIG. Duck has become the face of the two-way street campaign in recent weeks and has been a supporter of the effort for some time. Paquette said there is no such contract.
Town council has said the issue of traffic in Sidney’s downtown will be part of its strategic planning session this month. A report by Urban Systems completed earlier this year suggested the Town would need to hold public meetings on the subject — if they decided to do anything at all. Urban Systems, which performed a cursory review of Beacon Avenue as an extra job in another traffic report, suggested the one-way system is unintuitive for drivers. They added, however, no change was required in the immediate future, under current traffic volumes.
Responding to council’s line of questioning, Duck said he was disappointed with the response to Paquette’s presentation.
“The council members chose to personally attack the messenger,” Duck stated in an email, “rather than accept the presentation or ask questions to the presentation.”
STIG has collected a variety of information, reports and media articles on the subject of two-way versus one-way streets.
STIG, Duck said, will formally request the Town’s Community Development Committee to respond to their request for another community forum. He added that on Oct. 28 the group will be formally present the business petition to the Town of Sidney.