The controversial topic of the Santa’s Village Road reconstruction added another chapter yesterday morning.
Fred Jahn and Mark Misko from the District of Muskoka attended the Bracebridge General Committee meeting virtually to lay out the plan for reconstruction of the road, which has been in the works for nearly five years.
The road’s being redone to improve the driving surface and make road base improvements; to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists; to address impacts from the 2019 flood; and to accommodate sanitary installation at Santa’s Village.
The project has proved controversial over the years, as public concerns have ranged from a lack of space to safely allow active transportation to the removal of trees along the roadway.
Jahn said the plan now is to create a road with 0.5 m paved shoulders on both sides. In doing so, they would minimize the need for property acquisition and tree removal, lowering the number of trees to be removed to 138 from 300 + under the original plans.
Jahn told the councillors the District made significant changes to the plan following a series of conversations with the public in 2018. Jahn said the major problem was that much of the public opinion conflicted. While many were asking for the optimum width of paved shoulders and a new lane for pedestrian safety, others were asking for minimal removal of trees and no property acquisition by the District. Jahn said they felt they had come up with a “Muskoka solution” in response.
There appeared to be little support for the solution from the general committee.
Councillor Mark Quemby said a 0.5 m paved shoulder was barely wide enough for one person to walk on and simmply unsafe. Quemby said at least one metre would be required to make the roads safe for active transportation and he’s in favour of going ahead with the property acquisition from Santa’s Village Road residents.
Councillor Archie Buie agreed, saying the safety of pedestrians and motorists should trump the removal of trees.
“You can cut down one tree and plant 100 and you’d be better off,” said Buie.
Jahn said the acquisition of 40 pieces of property for a project would be unprecedented in the District’s history. He also said removing as few trees as possible was a message they heard “loud and clear” during the public meetings.
Jahn also reiterated that there are no plans to install water and sewer lines to homes along Santa’s Village Road. The lines being installed are strictly for Santa’s Village and being paid for by them.
There was also some discussion about the installation of steel guard rails along the side of the road. Councillors questioned the need for the guard rails and the possible replacement of steel guard rails with cable guardrails, which are now used along the sides of many local highways.
Jahn said the cable guardrails actually created bigger footprints and would not meet the crash test standards for the area in question.
“Residents didn’t like it but this one we have to take a strong position on – we know
It’s the right thing to do,” said Jahn of the guardrails.
The District staff were asked if they would take the matter out for more public meetings, but Jahn said he felt it was unlikely to be of any benefit.
“Cyclists want wider shoulders and the neighbours don’t want to lose the trees. That isn’t going to change,” he said.
Jahn said the next step will be to circulate the plans for the road as widely as possible.
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