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Friday, April 19, 2024
Closing Queen Street isnt so simple, says town CAO
Niagara-on-the-Lake's clock tower in Old Town. File

It’s a mixed bag when it comes to opinions on closing Queen Street, Lord Mayor Betty Disero told council Monday.

There are a plethora of problems, including loss of parking revenue, traffic concerns because of the dead-ends that would be created, access for tenants, shop owners and employees, as well as thousands of vehicles being pushed onto the residential areas.

Coun. Clare Cameron asked about the status of emergency control group discussions about closing Queen Street, wondering how much time has been spent on the idea.

The emergency group, comprised of the mayor and other senior officials, is overseeing all town operations during the pandemic.

Cameron said she’s also been contacted by multiple people, who have a variety of opinions about closing the main way through Old Town.

“And on one side there seems to be some grave concern about it, on the other there’s a lot of desire for it,” she said.

Interim CAO Sheldon Randall said the idea is discussed every day, but one thing nobody can agree on is whether closing the street will benefit businesses or not.

“When talking to a lot of the businesses downtown, some say it will, some say it won’t,” he said.

He added that with about 12,000 vehicles coming into Old Town most weekends, if Queen Street were closed, those vehicles would be pushed into residential neighbourhoods.

“Where are those cars going to go?” he said, noting the residential roads aren’t designed for such heavy traffic.

“If you live on Prideaux or Johnson, you’re going to be bumper-to-bumper with cars now on your street.”

With no metred parking, the town would also lose a major revenue source, he said.

Disero said that based on 2019 revenues, the town would lose $495,000 in parking fees if it closed Queen Street from July to October. Each parking spot brings in about $12,000 from July to October.

Randal said other problems are:

* The dead-ends created on streets perpendicular to Queen Street, which would be difficult for traffic to turn around on.

* Businesses losing access to deliveries, and customer and staff parking.

* Tenants on Queen Street not having access.

* Lack of accommodation for people and tenants with disabilities.

“So it’s not as straight forward as people may think,” Randall said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be considered.

He said the town “doesn’t have a firm handle” on who is renting on Queen Street.

The town has been requesting help from the Chamber of Commerce, he said, but hasn’t heard back about it.

“We’ve been asking the chamber over and over to get involved … we’re yet to hear back from them,” he said.

Disero said she spent “a lot of time down on Queen Street” during the wee, and observed that people were mainly just strolling, and questioned if people would make the effort to walk to the shops if Queen Street was open for walking.

However, she said she’s still looking at the idea of closing a portion some side streets off of Queen Street and putting picnic tables in.

“There’s been a lot of discussion going on.”

She said a lot of retailers on Queen are worried their regular customers won’t come downtown if the street is closed.

Randall said he thinks the businesses need to be involved, so they can decide if it will be good for them, as well as the residents who live in the area.

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