It was standing room only at the August 16th Public Works Committee meeting, literally…. the Chambers did not have enough seats, so many stood in the doorway throughout the proceedings.  A “tip of the hat” definitely goes to all those residents who attended and show their support for saving the Irish Woodlot.

Bruce Mackenzie of “Save The Woodlot” was the first delegation heard by the Committee.  Mr. Mackenzie delivered a wonderful speech on the importance and history of the area that captured the attention of almost everyone in the Council Chambers, with the exception of the Mayor who rarely made eye contact with the speaker.  The threat to native species, drainage, wind speed and pollution effects from vehicular traffic were among some negative consequences outlined by Mr. Mackenzie should a road be put through the woodlot.

As was stated by Mr. Mackenzie, Grimsby now has 12 lanes of East-West traffic corridors… and at an estimated cost of $8.5 million for 1.6 kilometres of road, we need more trails and not more road.  He articulated and proposed a resolution that would remove the language in the Region’s Transportation Master Plan for the Livingston Avenue extension and promote using the Region’s right-of-way as a year-round multi-use trail.

Chairman Berry stated that there is a public misconception that Council does not want to protect the Woodlot, citing a lack of communications from the Town.  Further Mr. Berry stated numerous times in the meeting that he does support the protection of the woodlot and does not want a road through this area.  It was good to hear both him and Alderman Kadwell articulate their views clearly even before a vote.

Brought in to shore up the Mayor’s/Town’s belief in “Going West” was Ron Tripp, Commissioner of Public Works for Niagara Region.  He asserted that the original Environmental Assessment was not cancelled but merely “held in abeyance” to be “re-scoped”.  If the original consultants were paid and the process halted, that technobabble sounds like a fancy way of saying cancelled.  The tense in which Mr. Tripp spoke (and he did correct himself a few times) was that the decision to do an EA was a “done deal”.

Further he went on to state (and shock the audience) that the Region had purchased a portion of the Smith Farm “from Livingston to the South side of the CN tracks”.

Alderman Dunstall in question to Mr. Mackenzie asked if putting a road *and* a trail in was a good idea.  Mr. Mackenzie stated this would not be a workable solution.

In response to Alderman Berry’s question about expanding nature activities in the area, Mr. Mackenzie eloquently stated…

“Start with a road and you have closed the door… start with a trail and the options are open.”

At the conclusion of questions from the Committee, the whole room erupted in loud applause for Bruce Mackenzie’s presentation and diligent efforts in working to protect the woodlot.

Despite the Friday agenda cut-off which had Mr. Mackenzie as the only delegation to speak, the revised agenda available at the meeting now included the delegation of Colleen Allison, who represented one part of the family (from out of province) that owns the land on which the Irish woodlot resides.  Their desire to have the Livingston Avenue Extension put through their property and remove the land from the Greenbelt (which is a whole other provincial matter) as a few audience members whispered, is driven by questionable motives.

EDIT:  For clarification, the family members living on the property want to see the woodlot protected.  The absentee shareholders in the family were the ones represented in the Committee delegation.

Their stated reasoning for supporting the road was dubious at best… citing liability concerns with people walking through and that the proposed road would “unite” their North and South properties. Logic would dictate that a road would actually split their property, not unite it.  Further they stated the lands were given to them by their grandparents for their own use and enjoyment (or arguably commercial sale) and should not be held “as a legacy for the enjoyment of future generations of Ontarians”.  No debate where their intentions lay, but wait it gets better…

The family representative said that if a trail were to go through, they would demand the Region or Town provide an 8-foot high security fence around their property to discourage trespassers and protect them from “liability” claims.  Needless to say, this attempt at a threat actually was a treat in comedy.  Mr. Tripp stated it’s not within Regional practice or policy to pay for or put up fences for property owners.

After the delegations and discussion, the Committee did not vote on Mr. Mackenzie’s proposed resolution but rather voted on the resolution of “no position” until an EA is carried out.  Alderman Kadwell asked for a recorded vote on the matter and the Committee voted as follows:

Name Vote Position
Alderman Kadwell NO Supports a trail, not a road.
Alderman Berry YES Supports a trail, not a road… but believes an EA must be done to get a complete picture.
Alderman Dunstall YES Believes an EA should be done before making any decisions.
Mayor Bentley YES Leading proponent of putting a road through.
Alderman DiFlavio Not in attendance – Holidays.

Needless to say,  most residents were hoping for a majority NO to the Livingston Avenue Extension.  Rather as we have stated, the Committee has recommended a “we don’t know” position… and wants money spent on an Environmental Assessment and drag this years-old debate further past it’s due date with the road still as a possibility.

The resolution of the Committee is not binding and the decision will be before Town Council on Monday August 21st (6:30 PM summer start) and without a doubt will be a hot topic for discussion.

If you have not already done so, please do write your Alderman and the Mayor and show your support for “Save The Woodlot”.  You can find their contact information at the bottom of our previous post by clicking here.