Although there has been considerable discussion about a roundabout proposed for what is locally known as the four corners intersection in St. Davids, the loss of parking as part of the project is also an issue that is concern to village businesses.
Paul Lalonde, the co-owner of Twin Power Financial on Four Mile Creek Road near the intersection, is especially worried about the impact a proposed bike lane on Creek Road will have on his business, and others nearby, and the fact that the region doesn’t have a good option for those who will lose their parking spaces due to the bike lanes.
He believes the region is “making light” of the predicament of village businesses, including his.
There is absolutely no room on the Twin Power Financial lot for parking, he says. He tried nine years ago to get a variance for parking behind the lot, but was not successful.
He says his office completely relies on on-street parking for its four employees, two tenants above the office — six spaces required daily — and more for any clients who might visit.
In the time since they moved into the St. Davids location, they have invested in a lot of inside renovations, he says. The company is currently planning an extensive renovation to the outside of the 120-year-old building, with the intention of “bringing it back to its glory as a historic building here.”
Instead, they are waiting to see what happens during the months of construction and the removal of parking spaces on the street, and whether the impact of both will drive them to look for another location.
The bike lanes, he says, could kill his business and destroy the property value.
“Who would purchase a 3,600-square-foot building without a single parking spot within 200 metres?”
The region’s parking solution, he explains, is around the corner, on Warner Road, which is not only inconvenient but unsafe for those attempting to cross Creek Road, especially families with kids, and with no stop sign or traffic light to allow for a gap in the flow of traffic.
He may as well sell the building to be torn down and used for a parking lot, he says, because there is nowhere else in the village to offer parking for local businesses.
Although others are pushing back about a roundabout in St. Davids, that is not his issue, and he thinks bike lanes on York Road, also part of the regional project, are a great idea.
However, he can see Creek Road through his office window, “and I don’t see many people cycling,” he adds. “That’s just not a route cyclists use.”
He suggests instead a wider sidewalk could be combined with a bike lane for the short distance through the village, similar as the Niagara Parkway Recreation Trail, which would allow for biking, pedestrians and parking.
Anne Sachar, a resident and business owner on Creek Road, is also pleading with the region to leave the on-street parking. She and her husband operate the Iron Garden, offering iron and bronze garden decor, beside their house. Although they have two lots, and more than enough parking, “we’re all in this together.” The proposed widened sidewalk and bike lane will be “a losing proposition to every resident and business in St. Davids,” she says.
The project, she adds in her letter to the region, is “an attempt to squeeze in a costly roundabout and having to rethink and retrofit the whole central downtown area to accommodate one.”
The region’s response, from Maged Elmadhoon, a transportation engineer, is that “improvements are needed to the intersection to accommodate future growth and to make the intersection accessible for all road users. Improvements will also enhance urban design and make the intersection a beautiful gateway in the St. Davids community,” he says. The proposed roundabout “will create slow and uniform traffic speeds with no congestion, well into the long future horizon. The raised centre medians and splitter islands should also help manage access near the intersection.”
Wider sidewalks, he says, will attract more pedestrians to St. Davids, and make those who do walk there now feel safer.
While it’s understood businesses along Four Mile Creek Road may be impacted by the loss of parking, “a number of the businesses have their own off-street parking lots, plus there are on-street parking opportunities available in the area outside of the operational and safety concerns with the intersection.”
Norm Miller, a communications consultant with the region, outlined the project for The Local as necessary to deal with increased traffic in the area and provide better pedestrian and cyclist connections.
The project team, including regional staff and consultants, is still working with stakeholders and the town to select the most appropriate cycling facility design, including business and property owners in the area who may be impacted, he says.
Road safety is a top priority for the region, especially with St. Davids School and the Community Safety Zone, and the region removes on-street parking within the right-of-way when there are operational and safety concerns for road users, he says.
There have been two Public Information Centres to date, the last on June 23, and next steps include finalizing technical studies, meeting with local property owners and stakeholders, and finalizing the design of the project.
A presentation to Niagara-on-the-Lake town council about the project will likely be made in the fourth quarter of 2021, says Miller.
Paul Harber of Ravine Vineyard has been actively involved in discussions about the project from its earliest days.
He references an article in the former Niagara Advance, from March 2004, when the region said, once the sewer project in the village was completed, there would be a need to upgrade the intersection, and would be considering traffic lights or a roundabout. The project manager at the time favoured a roundabout.
It was at that time, says Harber, when work should have begun, at least to look at other ways to redirect traffic and make the area safe for pedestrians. He has suggested the first step should be to look at improving Line 9 as a way in and out of the village, taking traffic around the intersection, with sidewalks and a crosswalk for safety.
He’s also very concerned about where traffic will go during the construction phase, and believes the improvement of Line 9 should come first.
Larry Stewart, of the Avondale Convenience Store is concerned about the project. He is expecting property to be expropriated, and will lose a section of his parking. He worries about the roundabout creating a constant traffic flow, eliminating a gap for drivers trying to turn onto Creek Road from the Avondale store.
He was surprised to hear the region was going forward with a project that residents and business owners don’t support.
Harber agrees, and wonders why the region, after waiting so long to move forward, now seems to be in a hurry to get this project underway, when there are so many outstanding issues.
He and his family have another meeting coming up with the region about the expropriation of Harber property at the corner of York Road and Creek Road for the roundabout. He will be listening to what they have to say, and although he’s not a huge supporter of the roundabout proposal, his real concern, he says, “is to make sure this village is safe for our residents.”
He remembers walking to St. Davids Public School, he says, “and I really hope that when I have kids, there will be a safe way for them to walk to school as we did.”