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Niagara Falls
Monday, April 15, 2024
St. Davids roundabout plan sparks more heated council debate
Regional Coun. Andrea Kaiser, seen here at a town council meeting, does not dispute the conclusions of regional staff, who say a roundabout is the best infrastructural solution to the intersection of York and Four Mile Creek Roads. EVAN LOREE
Coun. Sandra O'Connor argues the town's regional rep. cannot advocate for council's interests on a transportation committee if she disagrees with it on the issue of a roundabout in St. Davids. EVAN LOREE

Then town rejects regional rep Kaiser as nominee for transportation committee

 

 

Around and around we go, the issue of a proposed roundabout in the heart of St. Davids has become a thorny one for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s nine council members.

At a meeting Tuesday night, council received close to 1,400 signatures from residents asking the town to reject a roundabout and preserve the village charm of St. Davids.

After a short discussion, council agreed to send the petition to the region.

Coun. Erwin Wiens said if the residents get their way, and the roundabout gets canned, the only other option is traffic lights.

Coun. Sandra O’Connor, citing a motion endorsed during the previous term of council, said councillors were against the traffic circle plans because the region had failed to account for St. Davids Public School when it planned the roundabout.

She also said the plan had no regard for the region’s streetscape guidelines, which say roundabouts are safer for drivers but not for pedestrians.

O’Connor said the region had never responded to the town’s request for a meeting to discuss these concenrns.

And head of operations Darren Mackenzie, said council also requested the region consider a stoplight instead of a roundabout.

“I’m always concerned when we say we just don’t want something,” Wiens said. “If we don’t support the roundabout, the only option is lights.”

Coun. Gary Burroughs countered that, “We’re not suggesting what the answer is. The answer isn’t a roundabout.”

Wiens said Frank Tassone, the region’s director of transportation services, has responded to the town’s concerns by email multiple times.

Tassone, along with Regional Coun. Andrea Kaiser, spoke to council about the roundabout and other transportation plans for NOTL at a meeting Sept. 26.

This was the second time in two weeks council has discussed the roundabout.

Last week, council decided it would not nominate Kaiser to a position on a regional transportation advisory committee.

The advisory committee is a newly created body meant to provide the region with advice on transportation policy.

“Coun. Kaiser has indicated that she is in favour of the St. Davids roundabout and is trusting the current process,” O’Connor said.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa interrupted O’Connor several times as she tried to argue Kaiser could not adequately represent council on the advisory committee if she was in favour of the proposed roundabout.

“We have had two motions passed, which are still in force, against the St. Davids roundabout,” she said. “How can she represent council on this committee if it’s against council’s wishes?” 

In an interview later, Kaiser said she had been elected by the people and would not answer to council should she be appointed to the committee.

In fact, she said she would withdraw her name if council nominated her to the position with any such strings attached.

O’Connor, citing a memo brought to council, said the appointee was to represent council, not residents, on the committee.

Kaiser said O’Connor was “playing a little bit of politics” and the issue of the roundabout was “not directly related” to the work of the committee.

“Councillors should be trying to bring the community together and be collaborative,” she said. 

In rejecting her appointment O’Connor was being divisive, Kaiser said.

She also took issue with O’Connor’s characterization of her position on the roundabout.

“I am not, like, standing on the side of the road going ‘We need a roundabout. We need a roundabout,’” Kaiser said.

However, contrary to the claims of residents, Kaiser said the region’s assessment of the area was not flawed.

“I accept what the environmental assessment is saying.”

“I just felt like it’s kind of a moot discussion, because it’s already been approved,” she added.

Despite public pushback, Kaiser said there was no consensus, one way or the other, on the roundabout. 

She told The Lake Report a resident had just expressed support for the project to her in a phone call.

Wiens said it was a mistake to withhold support for Kaiser because of one issue.

“Every issue that was ever questioned by residents of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has been addressed by the region,” he said.

“To disallow — disavow somebody based of one incident, because of a political decision is not germane. It doesn’t make sense to do that,” he said.

Kaiser had been a good advocate for the town, he said.

Couns. Maria Mavridis, Nick Ruller, Adriana Vizzari, Burroughs and O’Connor all voted against nominating Kaiser to the transportation advisory committee.

Couns. Tim Balasiuk, Wendy Cheropita, Wiens and Zalepa supported her.

O’Connor attempted to have Vizzari considered for nomination to the committee but Zalepa said she would have to submit it as a notice of motion, to be discussed at a later date.

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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