Top News

Kentville council votes down Webster Street bike lane proposal

Kentville’s town council has rejected a Webster Street traffic calming and beautification project that included a pitch for the addition of a two-way protected bike lane that would connect the east and west ends of Kentville’s trail system.
Kentville’s town council has rejected a Webster Street traffic calming and beautification project that included a pitch for the addition of a two-way protected bike lane that would connect the east and west ends of Kentville’s trail system. - Ashley Thompson

KENTVILLE - A proposal pitching a two-way protected bike lane for Webster Street has come to a full stop.

But that doesn’t mean it was all for naught.

Coun. Cate Savage encouraged staff and council to explore new ideas for a bike route and beautification within the downtown now that they know the public is clearly engaged.

“To say that I’ve been elated with the public engagement is an understatement. We have seen e-mails, taken calls, had conversations, reviewed petitions – not to mention the engagement on social media,” she said, minutes before the Webster Street proposal was put to a vote at the Town of Kentville’s April 9 council advisory committee (CAC) meeting.

“My thought is any and all public engagement, whether for or against any proposal, is fantastic.”

Savage said she understands the science behind the engineering report pitching Webster Street as the most direct pathway for connecting the east and west ends of Kentville’s trail system, but she was unable to support the proposal presented to council based on the information at hand and the opposition expressed by residents and the business community.

“I’m confident that we can find another route that will be, overall, pleasing to most… we have a tremendous opportunity here to keep the dialogue going on this issue.”

About 20 members of the public sat in the gallery to watch the CAC meeting unfold.

Kentville’s town council overwhelmingly voted in favour of not accepting a staff recommendation seeking approval of the project that would see a portion of Webster Street reduced to one lane to make way for a two-way protected bike lane. The successful motion was tabled by Coun. Craig Gerrard, and seconded by Coun. John Andrew.

The staff recommendation, based on findings from a study prepared by engineers with WSP and presented by Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Bedingfield, asked council to accept the project in principle for completion in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Bedingfield also recommended that council grant the approval with the intent of running a two-year trial period that would be subject to evaluation, and giving staff the resources necessary to address concerns raised by the business community and service organizations.

Nearly 200 people turned out for a public meeting the Town of Kentville hosted at the fire hall to gather feedback regarding the proposal April 4.

The top concerns identified through a compilation of the feedback centred around fears that the recommended changes would result in the elimination of some parking spaces, traffic congestion, interference with loading zones and added costs to the town, Bedingfield said.

The potential positives of moving forward with the project included the addition of several beautification elements along the street, enhanced safety features, the creation of a new gathering space in a pedestrian-friendly environment and added accessibility, she added.

Coun. Cathy Maxwell was the lone member of council to appear unreservedly in favour of moving forward with the Webster Street proposal hinging on their approval.

“This is a wonderful plan and the very best location. It has the potential to increase pedestrian traffic, which our town really needs. It puts us in a position to capitalize on the bicycle tourism industry,” she said.

Maxwell added that she’s “taken some heat” as a result of her efforts to try to educate the public on the importance of the project.

“This would require some adjustments, but any worthy change does,” she said, adding that she saw the proposal as a way to make downtown more vibrant.

“I’m a lifelong citizen of this town who wants to see it flourish as it did during my childhood…

I will never agree that this plan is not in the best interest of our citizens.”

Councillors Gerrard, Andrew, Eric Bolland, and Deputy Mayor Lynn Pulsifer, however, weren’t sold on the location.

“There’s no support for this initiative from the trails coalition, the business community has spoken. I’ve received hundreds of emails, comments on the street. It’s not a logical option,” said Bolland, who encouraged staff to explore the idea of selecting an alternate route that could link the east and west ends of Kentville’s trail system.

“I support the concept, but I do not support Webster Street.”

Andrew commended town staff for coming to council with a detailed plan that embraces the forward-thinking elements of revitalization.

“A wise colleague mentioned taking baby steps, so I expect we will be discussing what those steps might look like,” said Andrew.

“The will of the people seems pretty firm at this time, so while I, too, see merit and possibility with this kind of progressive beautification and transportation project, I will not be supporting the concept in its present form.”

Mayor Sandra Snow acknowledged that more could have been done to engage the public sooner.  

“The Webster Street downtown revitalization project is the engineering solution to the problem presented. It’s the textbook answer. It’s not how we live, work or use our downtown,” she said.

“That’s what the discussion should have been about.”

Snow said she viewed the Webster Street project as an opportunity to add a new active transportation route to Kentville’s offerings and create a welcoming pedestrian space for ages eight to 80.

“Sometimes we just have to embrace change,” the mayor added.

Did you know?

Kentville Business Community president Leigh Morrison issued a statement April 9 to express the organization’s opposition of the project recommended for Webster Street:

“There are too many questions and concerns to support this proposal as it stands. Of major concern is the loss of parking adjacent to merchant's businesses, traffic congestion and traffic flow, no real freight or delivery plan in place for those who need to receive products, and a lack of confidence that this project will benefit their business. For KBC to support this project, these issues must be dealt with.”

Recent Stories