Two tie votes at Sechelt’s Jan. 19 Council meeting have stalled proposed upgrades for Boulevard on the Trail Bay waterfront.
Coun. Alton Toth moved to defer consideration of any upgrade to 2023. That failed, with Mayor Darnelda Siegers and Coun. Janice Kuester and Matt McLean voting against. A motion from Siegers to repair the existing one-way traffic and parallel parking lanes and add a separated asphalt sidewalk also failed, with Coun. Tom Lamb, Brenda Rowe and Toth opposed. Coun. Eric Scott was absent from the meeting.
While maintaining the “status quo” means no changes to vehicle parking on Boulevard, the lack of an upgrade plan may mean no pothole repairs either. Director of engineering and operations Kirn Dhillon reported at the meeting that filling the potholes with “cold mix” repair material is not an effective option. In his review of Boulevard’s pavement conditions, he said that the potholes will continue to reappear in the same locations unless issues with the road base are addressed through upgrades.
Staff put forward three Boulevard upgrade options to council. One proposed closing that waterfront route between Trail and Ocean avenues to vehicle traffic. Toth said that option should be rejected as council is “on record” as in support of retaining vehicle traffic on Boulevard until a long-term plan for the municipality’s downtown waterfront area is devised.
The other two options recommended repairing the vehicle lane. To pay for either proposal, staff recommended that $30,000 come out of the 2022 budget for district-wide traffic safety improvements and the remainder from the current year’s road paving program. The option supported by the mayor but rejected by a council vote was to spend $108,900 on vehicle and parking lane repairs and to build a two-metre-wide sidewalk. No member of council spoke in favour of the other option, estimated to cost $74,700, to remove the parking lane and create a 3.5 metre multi-use path.
Toth said he was upset to see discussion of the Boulevard back at the council table, as he was not aware of any serious safety issues along the route. He expressed concerns about staff’s ability to complete another 2022 capital project, stating “I am not interested in cobbling together a funding plan to add another incomplete project to the list.”
McLean said that adding a sidewalk on Boulevard, one of the most popular walking routes in the community, was a “bare minimum.” In response, Toth pointed out that Sechelt currently does not have sidewalks leading to most of its elementary schools.
While Rowe and Lamb expressed concerns about the demands on the paving budget to repair damages on other municipal roads caused by this winter’s harsh weather, McLean said “I prioritize the health of citizens over a small portion of a paving program.”
The potential for higher than anticipated costs related to archaeological work at the site was raised by Lamb. “Once you start digging, you will find all sorts of stuff,” he said. He said that council should wait for a grant opportunity to allow for a larger budget to undertake any work along that section of the waterfront.
Boulevard’s current single paved traffic lane is shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. Discussions about separating person and motor-powered traffic, to improve safety and create a more walkable community, have been discussed throughout the current council’s term.