Heather Wright/The Independent
A new draft policy on sidewalks would allow Petrolia staff to override the policy without consulting the public.
There has been a push from residents for more sidewalks while developers and council has resisted the idea, saying it adds costs to neighbours. But a wellness plan created with Bluewater Health encouraged Petrolia to become a more walkable community. So council asked planning officials to look at the sidewalk policy.
On April 29, the town held a public meeting on the draft Official Plan Amendment which deals with sidewalks.
Lambton County Planner, Rob Nesbitt, outlined a number of policies which would have sidewalks on both sides of arterial roads, like Petrolia Line, collector roads such as Dufferin and Tank, and local roads.
According to the proposal, sidewalks along arterial and collector streets will be a minimum width of 1.8 metres and along local streets a minimum width of 1.5 metres
The plan calls for a boulevard between the street and sidewalk “in all new residential subdivisions, except where physical conditions prohibit them.”
What was most surprising was a new policy which “will allow the Town’s Director of Public Works to modify or not apply the policies related to sidewalks when the implementation of the policies is not feasible or practical…(to) allow staff to make appropriate and timely decisions … rather than delaying such decisions until a future Council meeting,” the report reads.
That worried Petrolia resident Liz Welsh, who is a former councillor. “It allows for no public consultation and I don’t think that should have been. That’s not accessible government and it’s not transparent.”
There will be another public meeting tonight at 6 pm before the policy goes to council.