Great gate debate amounts to nothing
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The emergency access gate, looking north from Upper Lorne Beach Road to Victoria Street in Inverhuron
A sharp bend along Victoria Street, Inverhuron
The great gate debate has been much ado about nothing because Kincardine council has decided to leave the policy alone regarding an emergency access gate in Inverhuron.
The policy was put in place two years ago, allowing the gate to be opened in emergency situations, such as the need to get essential Bruce Power workers to and from the nuclear plant by bus.
A delegation came to council Jan. 13, asking for the gate to be open for all motorists during the winter months when both Highway 21 and the B-line (Bruce County Road 23) were closed due to severe snowstorms.
The stakeholders, including the municipality, Bruce Power, the OPP, and the Bruce County highways department, met Feb. 19 and decided that the policy has worked well and should remain as is.
However, the public works committee met Feb. 26 and recommended council amend the policy, allowing the gate to be opened for the motoring public between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. when Highway 21 and the B-line are closed by the OPP.
Several residents who live on Upper Lorne Beach Road and Victoria Street, where the gate is located, argued that the roadway is not fit for high volumes of traffic and that there was a commitment by council that the roadway would not be open to the public.
Robert Taylor said a proposal to bring more traffic to that roadway is "perilous" and "dangerous."
"With larger volumes of traffic on the road, emergency requirements of the local residents could very well be jeopardized or at least limited," he said. "If a fire happened to start on a snowy, windy night, it could easily get out of control if firetruck access was limited due to lines of vehicles using the road."
He said by opening the gate, council would be reducing the risk on the B-line but transferring it to Victoria Street and Upper Lorne Beach Road. "The risk of damages or death is not reduced but now put in your laps as you are knowingly routing excess traffic on a substandard road. Do you seriously think there will be no lawsuits resulting from automobile or property damage accidents? This new policy could be a very costly decision at a time when Kincardine does not have that kind of money."
Taylor said the stakeholders and the large majority of local residents are happy with the current policy, and no extra money has to be spent. "Why change it? The people who are on the roads in poor weather are making poor choices. You shouldn't be part of helping them make that poor choice."
Peggy Griffin and Herb Paetzold live on Upper Lorne Beach Road and urged council to leave the policy alone.
Griffin said drivers should be using common sense as to when to be on the roads and how to drive according to weather conditions.
Roberta Trelford, community emergency management co-ordinator for Kincardine, said if the road were opened during specified hours under severe winter conditions, there are bound to be accidents. That would defeat the purpose of having the gate open which is to get essential Bruce Power workers to and from the site, and allow emergency vehicles through.
She said the road is not built to a standard to handle increased traffic. Plus, the municipality could be facing liability issues if it allows the public to use that road, knowing full well it is not built to handle the higher volume and two-way traffic.
Trelford agreed with OPP constable Paul Bradley who said when the weather is bad and roads are closed, people should just stay home.
Deputy mayor Laura Haight, chairperson of the public works committee, said she did not support the committee's recommendation and would not support it at the council meeting.
Councillor Mike Leggett quoted councillor Kenneth Craig from a previous meeting that the road will be opened someday, but not until it has been upgraded to handle the traffic.
"All the stakeholders are telling us to leave the policy as is," he said, "so leave it alone."
Councillor Marsha Leggett pointed out that the decision was to go to council for final approval at the April 21 meeting. "I say we make the decision tonight," she said. "We have all the cards on the table, make the decision and put this behind us."
Haight said the municipality should not be responsible for commuter traffic of this volume. "We should push the province to make the improvements to Highway 21 so it isn't closed all the time in the winter. That's the real solution, not sending thousands of vehicles through a residential subdivision."
Later in council session, in a recorded vote, council agreed to leave the policy alone, and the gate closed except in case of emergency. Mayor Larry Kraemer, deputy mayor Laura Haight, and councillors Mike Leggett, Guy Anderson, Kenneth Craig and Marsha Leggett were in favour, while councillors Ron Hewitt and Gordon Campbell were opposed. Councillor Randy Roppel was absent.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010