A tale, or two, of two neighbourhoods
The Planning Board meeting to review the Request for Reconsideration filed by Dan MacIsaac, President of Mel’s, on Tuesday, 25 May, lasted only thirty minutes, so watching the video recording won’t take too much of anyone’s time.
Councillor Julie McCabe summed up the situation quite succinctly [19:15]: “I believe this is a provincial problem.”
While the outcome was not unexpected (8–1 in favour to endorse the request), it was Mr Forbes’s undeniable support for the reconsideration that was quite revealing. More on that below.
(1) Two neighbourhoods on opposite sides of the road
In a cunning move, Stephen Yeo, chief engineer with the Department of Transportation informed CBC on 20 May of a possible cost-effective but deceptive alternative to the roundabout in the form of a central island (aka median strip), after Charlottetown’s City Council rejected the Province’s assumed acceptance of the Angus Drive exit from Mel’s Convenience store.
On Thursday, 27 May, an interview by CBC morning show host Mitch Cormier with a Hanmac Street resident added another dimension to the St Peters Road/Angus Drive roundabout boondoggle*.
Intentionally or not, the St Peters Road/Angus Drive provincial/municipal project is not only pitting one neighbourhood against another, it also risks bringing two City councillors into conflict with each other. By some quirk of geography, St Peters Road marks the boundary between Ward 9 (north side) and Ward 10 (south side).
Moreover, the CBC article states: “The province said that decision made the proposed roundabout unsafe and presented a new plan without it.” The Planning Board’s meeting package included no drawing with this new plan. Perhaps it will be included in the meeting package of the Special Meeting of Council scheduled for Monday, 31 May, which has a packed agenda: seven items of discussion with the Reconsideration fifth in line.
(2) Two neighbourhoods: double standards
Let’s go back to the Planning Board meeting for the ‘or twoʼ tale of two neighbourhoods.
Alex Forbes, Manager of the Planning & Heritage Department, presented his report on the Request for Reconsideration submitted by Dan MacIssac, President of Melʼs. The gist of the request is based on new information provided by the province about the interdependence of the proposed (provincial) roundabout and the proposed (municipal) Angus Drive exit for traffic leaving Mel’s [go to 13:25 in video recording]. Mr Forbes expressed his opinion that this new information was somehow not clearly conveyed during the 23 March public meeting by the three presenters. Furthermore, he advised the Planning Board that Council can reconsider the rezoning application in favour of Mel’s. Were this to occur, another public meeting would be held to convey all the additional relevant facts.
Compare this with the APM Sherwood Crossing1 rezoning application and subsequent resolution, which Council approved in a 6–3 vote on 14 December 2020,
[A] even though the related Sherwood-area traffic study (later dubbed the ‘West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan’) was presumably still being completed at the time the 26 August public meeting took place;
[B] even though the Sherwood-area traffic study was presented to City Council on 29 October at a closed session of a Special Meeting of Council; and
[C] even though Councillor Tweel asked twice (9 November and 14 December) that Council approve a second public meeting, given the new information received by Council on 29 October about future roads for planned developments in the Sherwood neighbourhood. His request was denied both times.
Here is what Councillor Duffy said during the 14 December Monthly Meeting of Council: “People seem to think the larger one [traffic study] is to validate or confirm Sherwood Crossing in place when it actually has nothing to do with that. It had a bearing, but the approval or not of Sherwood Crossing is not contingent upon the master traffic plan” [video 1:00:20 and 2:06:25].
A tale of two governments
It should be remembered that The Guardian reported on the $20 million St Peters Road plan to ‘fix traffic headachesʼ on 21 February 2020. (To set the date in context, the coronavirus was still ‘only’ an epidemic and centred in Asia and on cruise ships.)
The article stated: Speaking before an audience of about 100 residents at the Hillsborough Community Centre on Thursday, P.E.I.’s chief engineer Stephen Yeo said the corridor sees about 1,500 vehicles per hour during peak times. “We could be up to over 2,600 vehicles per hour turning down St. Peters Road [by 2029].”
A progressive government, provincial or municipal, no longer ‘fixes traffic headachesʼ with new roads or roundabouts. A progressive government invests in a combination of interdependent public transportation and active travel. A progressive government strives to reduce car dependence, and promote low-carbon urbanization. A progressive government uses public money for the common good of its citizens and for the community as a whole.
Instead, two levels of government continue to make unpredictable moves in a politically orchestrated attempt to satisfy the desires of a local business owner and to justify expensive, publicly funded roadworks, and in so doing, bringing emotional turmoil to numerous citizens.
Will Monday’s meeting see City councillors influenced to vote a certain way or will cooler heads and moral conscience prevail?
I’m not the type to resort to Shakespeare, but something Alex Forbes said during the Planning Board meeting [29:15] listing the three parties ‘who have an interestʼ got me thinking about the number three in Macbeth. When the hurly-burlyʼs done is from Act 1, Scene 1.
*Boondoggle (n. informal North American): An unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulent project.
1 IRAC hearing LA21001 – Read v. City of Charlottetown is scheduled for Monday, 31 May 2021. Grounds for appeal: Failure to consult and inform public on City’s Master Traffic Plan with respect to Sherwood Crossing rezoning application.