Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Haist Reconstruction

You will see that in my last column I wrote about the widening of Haist Street to accommodate bike widths, the addition of a sidewalk, and about the feedback by area residents.

Now, I thought you would want to know about some of the major benefits of the overall reconstruction of Haist Street. (Note: this column was written before Monday, July 20 Council meeting where we received two public presentations, a petition, and a staff report about Haist Street.)

Reduce Speeds:
A number of AK Wigg families and other area residents have expressed concern about people driving at excessive speeds along Haist Street. Some speeders even pass other drivers who were travelling the speed limit!

As a first step to make the street safer, a previous Council established a “Community Safety Zone” along most of Haist; for drivers caught speeding, the fines are doubled.

But, since that type of zone requires constant enforcement, vehicles have not slowed down. Thus, many concerned citizens requested that Council install “traffic calming measures” like speed bumps, roundabouts, stop signs, or on-street parking. At the first Public Open House in October 2008, the majority of respondents preferred raised crosswalks; the final draft of the Haist Street Plan includes four raised crosswalks – near the Arena, Berkwood, and Pancake Lane, and at A.K. Wigg School (which will also include an overhead, pedestrian traffic-light).

Better Water Quality:
You might recall that nearly 40 years ago Haist Street delineated the former “Village of Fonthill” from “Pelham Township.” That boundary also denoted different water systems. Fonthill water came from the (now abandoned) wells in Marlene Stewart-Strait Park. Pelham Township users relied on water from the Welland water treatment plant. For about a decade now, all of Pelham’s municipal water has come from the Regional water treatment plant in Welland. Yet, those aging, cast-iron watermains from the two, old water systems still deliver water to residents. Under the plan, these will be replaced with one, larger watermain.

New Storm Water System:
You might have noticed also the wide (and in some cases deep) ditches line Haist. These ditches are to collect all storm water and snow melt. However, downpours like we have had this spring and summer cause these ditches to washout and erode. The plan will eliminate washouts on the roads and help protect the environment by replacing the wide ditches with an underground storm water system.

These benefits formed an integral part of the Town’s successful application for Federal and Provincial funding.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Haist Street Plan"

What do you think about the Haist Street plan?

As one of Pelham’s most-used collector roads, the two kilometers of Haist Street from Canboro to Welland Road desperately requires reconstruction.

The $5.71 million reconstruction plan promises to create a more efficient road system that includes improved sightlines, added width for bicycles, sidewalks on both sides of the street, four raised crosswalks to calm the traffic, and a pedestrian-crossing signal in front of A.K. Wigg School. The replacement of the cast iron watermains (which separated Village of Fonthill and Pelham Township water forty years ago) will improve drinking water quality and system resiliency. The plan will eliminate washouts on the roads and help protect the environment by replacing the wide ditches with an underground storm water system.

The added bike-width and the new sidewalk on the western side of Haist stand as the most contentious parts of the plan. You see, the design calls for a widening of Haist by an extra metre to make it safer for cyclists. At the same time, adding a 1.5 metre (~5 feet) sidewalk after a curb and a 1.5 metre grass strip with new trees changes the face of many western-side properties.

In some cases, the new sidewalk could be up to 6 metres (+19 feet) closer to a home-owner’s property line. (Thankfully, the current plan incorporates a minimum 1.5 metre distance between the sidewalk and resident’s property.)

These suggestions will also affect any landscaping or trees that residents added to the road allowance over the years. The plan shows the removal of 46 such trees.

One can certainly understand why residents would work to improve the curb-appeal of their property or buffer it from traffic in these ways. People here (as elsewhere throughout our Town) cut and care for the road allowance in front of their property.

At the same time, a handful of homes stand as close as 2.5 metres (+8 feet) to their property line. If this was your home, you too would be concerned with any proposed changes.

Thus, many Haist Street residents publicly express concern. No doubt you heard about the 28 “Amend Haist Street Plan” signs displayed for the last two weeks. At our July 20 meeting Council will receive a petition with 147 signatures and comments asking to revise the Haist Street Plan “by removing and or altering elements to keep the flavour of Haist St.” Council will also receive a staff report summarizing the +40 comment sheets the design consultants obtained at the second Public Open House in June.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Celebrate and Give Thanks!

Canada Day is an opportunity to gather in our community and to proudly celebrate all it means to be Canadian. It is an opportunity to celebrate Canada’s heritage – which is continuously passed down to us through the works of our authors, poets, artists and performers.

Canada Day is a time to rejoice in the discoveries of our scientific researchers – from the First Airplane Flight in Canada by the Silver Dart in 1909—to the success of our entrepreneurs – like Pelham-based Accipiter Radar Technologies installing the first software-definable radars in an airport this month.

And, of course, it is a time to be thankful for our country and our Town.

We live in a beautiful Town, a bountiful Region, and a wonderful country. As you travel on our rural roads, you will see cherries on the trees and berries on the vines. Our Thursday evening farmer’s market is alive with fresh produce, flowers and plants, and healthy foods and delicious treats. Or, if you stop at one of the roadside stands, you will find similar delights.

We also live in a peaceful, safe community with good schools, and many recreation opportunities. We have clean water, wonderful libraries, and a good mix of neighbourhood and community parks.

You and I are protected by a dedicated police service, devoted volunteer firefighters, and expert emergency personnel. We have fair access to good and affordable healthcare.

True, we do have some work in these areas, but on a global scale, we are doing very well and should be thankful.

We enjoy freedoms of conscience and religion, of thought, belief, opinion and expression, of assembly, and of association. We are free from persecution and from tyranny.

As I have marvelled many times, the work and dedication of so many generous volunteers form the foundation of our vibrant community. From the Santa Clause Parade, to the Fenwick Lions Carnival, to the Fonthill Bandshell Concert Series, to the Canada Day Parade, volunteers organize and run our Town’s significant public events. From Communities in Bloom, to the Horticultural Society, to those that have “adopted a road”, volunteers work to beautify our Town. In every sport from baseball and hockey, to soccer and tennis, volunteers – like the coaches, convenors, and score keepers – ensure that our children enjoy the fun-of-the-game.

As you and your family and friends commemorate our country’s 142nd birthday, I hope you will join me in celebrating and in giving thanks for our community and our Canada.