Yorkton Council moved Monday, at their regular meeting, to proceed with closure of a portion of Seventh Avenue.
The bylaw “which proposes to close a portion of Seventh Avenue North, was tabled by Council at the Dec. 3 meeting that was in order to allow more time for public consultation and for administrative review,” explained City Planner Michael Eger.
In consideration of opposed respondents and to Council’s questions at the Dec. 3 meeting, Planning and Engineering, “sought alternatives or additional improvements that could be made to the mutual benefit of the affected parties,” he added.
One of the areas of concerns was the impact the closure could have to traffic flows.
“Peak-hour traffic counts were conducted on Seventh Avenue/Smith Street and Seventh Avenue/Broadway Street intersections. Vehicle trips were considered for the proposed change of use at the current Royal Ford property and for future development between Seventh Avenue and Dracup Avenue, north of Smith Street,” said Eger.
“… Traffic movements along Seventh Avenue North are generally low and, in the short term, closure of Seventh Avenue North would not be detrimental to current traffic patterns and volumes. Signalization of the intersection at Broadway Street, however, could create additional traffic volumes that would make closure less viable. Additionally, the CP rail line and Highway 9 present major barriers to accessibility between core commercial nodes of the City and Seventh Avenue provides one of the few options to facilitate vehicular and pedestrian movement in this area. With the possibility of significant population growth, the importance of retaining the Seventh Avenue corridor would be magnified. Therefore, it may not be in the City’s best long term interests to permanently close the proposed portion of Seventh Avenue.”
Eger said City Administration also looked for alternate solutions to the issue.
“Home Hardware has indicated that it is in their best interests to close Seventh Avenue as originally applied for, and that other alternatives will not necessarily meet their operational wants and needs. Nonetheless, Planning and Engineering has sought alternatives that could possibly serve to mutually benefit the affected parties,” he said.
In either case, the City could still legally close the affected street instead of closing the roadway to public traffic, the registered street could be converted to a Municipal Utility parcel or City-owned generic lot. Home Hardware would be granted access but precluded from constructing buildings – this will protect the right-of-way and also under ground utilities. The net effect is that the City would retain long-term access to the roadway and could protect it for future use, detailed a report circulated to Council.
A letter from Barbara Sutherland, Director, Real Estate Business, Home Hardware Stores Limited explained, “The primary purpose and benefit of acquiring this piece of land is that it is adjacent to the current Home Hardware Building Centre. In order to properly integrate the new land into its operation, the Yorkton Home Hardware Building Centre requires complete and unfettered access to the entire property. Unless these two pieces of land are adjoined there will be no operational benefit to owning the land located at 117 Broadway Street East. Therefore, because Seventh Avenue runs between these two pieces of land, Home Hardware has applied to have a portion of Seventh Avenue closed to allow these two pieces of property to become adjoined.”
Councillor Chris Wyatt said he was under the impression skid steer loaders, and similar equipment could be licensed and operated on city streets, so he did not see an issue with crossing the street.
Tristan Culham, a lawyer representing Home Hardware, said he believed there were issues related to liability, and licensing.
Coun. James Wilson wanted to know if there were longer term plans for the site.
Sutherland said the company is looking at a 30,000 square foot retail box store, and 20,000 in additional space, with the box store part of her three-to-five year capital plan, pending local ownership support for the expansion.
“I intend to do something on the site,” she said, adding she would term the current process Phase I.
Wilson then asked if the street closure did not occur what Home Hardware’s contingency plan was?
Sutherland said there is no alternative plan.
“We like where we’re located and would like to stay there.”
Eger also pointed out this matter was reviewed by the Planning & Infrastructure Commission at its Oct. 3, 2012 meeting. The Commission tabled the recommendation in order to allow members to physically view the street. The Commission subsequently reviewed this matter at its Oct. 17, 201 meeting and recommended that Council consider approval of the proposed closure subject to the results of the Public Notification process.
Coun. Les Arnelein offered the request had created a very difficult decision for Council, balancing traffic issues against being pro business. He added he did not “want to hinder” a multi-million dollar project.
Coun. Ross Fisher said he felt Council needed to take the step of formally closing the street so that the City and Home Hardware could begin negotiating the details of a development permit.
“I think that’s a decision we probably want to move forward with,” he said.
Wilson said in his mind it came down to investment and jobs being offered by Home Hardware, adding he’s hate to lose jobs over “half a street.”
“This is not an unreasonable request,” suggested Mayor Bob Maloney, adding “not that long ago we’d have been falling all over ourselves for something like this.
The table motion to close the street passed both second and third readings, with only Wyatt opposed.
A resolution to have City Administration negotiate a development permit deal and report back to Council was also approved, with Wyatt again the lone dissenting vote.