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Puslinch okays Townline Road transfer despite objections

by Mike Robinson

ABERFOYLE - It was a packed chamber on July 15 as Puslinch Township councillors heard from both local and Cambridge (Hespeler) residents asking the township not to proceed with a proposed transfer of Townline Road to the city.

Most delegation members seemed to favour a line from a John Denver classic - “Country roads take me home” - when talking about Townline Road between Puslinch and Cambridge.

All those who spoke referenced a Puslinch Township report on the proposed transfer of the road from Wellington Road 34 to Roszell Road. The report recommended Puslinch council pass a bylaw to authorize the transfer of that portion of the road - but retain ownership of a one-foot section of the road along that stretch.

Puslinch also requested the city keep the township and its residents informed during the detailed design of Townline Road, adding the township does not support widening of the east side of the road.

The township also agreed that upon completion of the detailed design of Townline Road, if a rural design cannot be accommodated within the existing road allowance, council will consider a request for the widening of the road at that time.

“Personally I’m opposed to Puslinch giving the road to Cambridge,” said Puslinch resident Gary Evans. One of several reasons he cited was the city wants to widen the road by three metres on the Puslinch side.

“I don’t understand why it needs to be on the Puslinch side,” Evans said, adding he suspected road widening and other road improvements would result in increased speed in the area.”

He said he believes the work would be tied in with construction of a new bridge across the river at some point. He also noted that right now the section of Townline Road is a non-truck route, but doubted a little sign stating “no trucks” would really be a deterrent.

“We feel the road can be very dangerous and possibly even more after being paved and widened.”

While councillor Matthew Bulmer shared a number of the concerns, he said, “I don’t know how ownership of the road will change that.”

Bulmer said Puslinch intends to retain one foot of the current road allowance even if road ownership was transferred to the city, which “would leave us with at least some control over the roadway.”

Tamara Hetherington of 537 River Road, Cambridge, spoke “as a neighbour of Puslinch. The neighbours across the street from me are part of our community.”

Hetherington said “we have a unique neighbourhood and the concern with the road transfer is that we’re a little suspicious that it will flip over to the region (control) and things will be out of our control.”

She noted there are over 20 children in the neighbourhood and lots of pedestrians passing through.

“Ideally we’d love to see Puslinch keep the road and keep everything as is.” If that cannot happen, she asked if Puslinch could ensure Cambridge’s Cultural Heritage Landscape (CHL)becomes part of the city’s official plan.

“We’re worried this will destroy the neighbourhood and our little community and impact the safety.” After attending numerous Cambridge council meetings, Hetherington said “we’re just not confident there will not be land expropriated down the road.”

Area resident Mike Monaghan said “if we wanted sidewalks and curbs ... we would have bought properties in subdivisions.” He too worried Cambridge still wanted to expropriate three metres of land from Puslinch landowners.

“As much as we hate losing property, many of us have wells and/or septic systems on that land. If there are ill effects ... who is responsible?” he asked.

Monaghan also contended “upgrading the roads to city standards ... will be an invitation to bring truck traffic. We already have a ton of traffic going through our neighbourhood ... adding trucks to that would just make it more dangerous.”

While Bulmer agreed the area “is a great place” but added “I don’t think changing the ownership of the road will change that.”

“Traffic demands are going to affect the design - not the ownership,” he said.

Puslinch resident Marilyn Fisher said she respected that council members have a difficult decision to make, “I would also hope that council members will respect this rural section of the road.”

Fisher said her family chose to live in Puslinch because of its rural environment but their way of life has been impacted by the additional traffic created as a result of the Mattamy Mill Pond Subdivision.

She contended it is possible, to change Townline Road so that the some of the drivers who speed along the road will be discouraged from using the route to access Highway 401.

She offered what she considered to be solutions to reducing use of the road - at the township’s expense - starting with the installation of speed calming bumps and a reduced speed limit of 40km/h. Fisher stated a three-way stop at the “T” intersection of Townline Road/Roszell Road/Black Bridge Road would also help.

She advocated for more visible signs to indicate that children live and play in the area, and larger signs to advise truckers the section of Townline Road is not a truck route.

Aime Lopes said since she heard of the proposed transfer, she has given a good deal of thought as to how it would affect her family and fellow neighbours in the community.

Lopes said that last summer she and her husband purchased a home 4640 Townline Road. (on the Cambridge side), near the corner of River Road.

“To be perfectly honest with you, this is our dream home. We spent our life savings on it. We wanted to raise our two young children in a setting which is essentially rural. This area is like no other in Cambridge.”

Lopes said such changes will have a “drastic, negative effect on our family’s dream,” noting activities such as riding bikes in the driveway will no longer be safe - neither will playing soccer in the front yard.

“Really, the home we stretched our finances to afford would diminish in value by putting a freeway through our front yard.” She asked council to not just consider the financial and infrastructure issues, but the lasting impact this could have on local families.

Cambridge resident Dr. Tom Moreau quipped that he and his wife are “escaped prisoners from the concrete and steel jail known as Toronto.”

While the Cambridge resident agreed with the ideas proposed by earlier delegations, Moreau said none of those options are effective without enforcement.

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right and the consequences are irreversible.” He recommended a decision be put off until the 401 widening project is complete in order to assess new traffic flows.

That project is not anticipated to be completed until 2019.

Moreau was concerned whether the city will even respect its own cultural heritage landscape document. The Cambridge resident suggested Puslinch should not just be concerned with financial aspects dealing with the matter.

He contended “at the end of the day good fences make good neighbours ... and Townline Road is a very good fence.”

Les Holdway offered a differing opinion on the matter.

He said, “I don’t personally have the fear it is going to turn into a freeway.” Holdway said he has been working on the development of the Blackbridge Mill since 1993 ... but officially since 2000 when there was draft plan approval.

Holdway said the city has made it clear it is not looking for a four-lane road - but still allowed a subdivision development in the Blackbridge area.

“The problem is that the horses are out of the barn here. The 850 houses now located on Blackbridge Road pretty much all exit onto Townline Road because they are heading to Mississauga ... Toronto ... whatever ... as they go to work.”

Holdway said through his ownership of the mill, the mill pond and owning land on River Road as well, “I have a fairly large acreage stake in this.”

But he said “there has to be some accommodation for the fact it is Cambridge, the subdivision exists and the people have to be able to get out of that subdivision safely.”

He said currently the road  is so narrow at the bridge; the road asphalt width is only 14 feet - both lanes combined.

The final delegate was Cambridge resident Tom Hetherington who lives on River Road.

“I look across at Puslinch and I don’t think there is anyone in this room that doesn’t wish tonight the vote was to annex our section of Hespeler into Puslinch.” Hetherington did not view this as any different than the negotiations going on with the Iran nuclear deal.

“It’s not about trust ... it’s about verification. We as a community, have trust issues with Cambridge.”

Hetherington added “We believe we will be totally exposed and taken advantage of if this transfer goes through.”

Council decision

Following the delegations Mayor Dennis Lever read the motion regarding the proposed transfer of Townline Road (from Wellington Road 34 to Roszell Road) to Cambridge.

The result would transfer the road as is, less a one foot strip. It also asked the city to keep Puslinch and its residents informed during the detailed design of the road.

Further, Cambridge will be advised that Puslinch does not support the widening of Townline Road. If the work cannot be done to rural standards within the existing road allowance, the township would consider a widening of the road allowance at  that time.

Road superintendent Don Creed said Cambridge would work on the rural design of the road. He added the city did not feel comfortable to do that within the existing road allowance - it would like to begin discussion with council regarding a further widening.

He added that even if the road were to be widened, the township would still request a one-foot allowance in front of the Puslinch properties.

CAO Karen Landry agreed any additional land requests would still need to come through the township.

Councillor Wayne Stokley remained concerned with the traffic flow in the area. He said a study in 2011 indicated it was one of the areas with the highest traffic volumes - outside of Brock Road.

“I don’t see it getting any better, only worse.” He said transfer of the road will not only affect residents of Townline Road but the nearby connecting roads as well.

While Stokley liked the idea of maintaining the rural design, he suggested the reason Cambridge likely wants to take over the road is to bring it up to urban design standards.

While this could delay things, he suspected eventually Cambridge wants the road to be more an urban design.

“I firmly believe this is a township road and I want to make sure it maintains its integrity as a rural road.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said it bothered her that a city like Cambridge expects neighbouring municipalities to deal with issues it has created.

Creed noted “ownership of the road will not decrease traffic - whether it is owned by us or Cambridge”. He also agreed township standards are a fair bit lower than those of an urban centre.

“We can rebuilt it to our standards to make it safer. Is there a cost. Of course there is a cost ... and it is a large cost.”

He said even if the township maintained ownership, portions of the roadway that did not meet current regulations would need to be widened.

“We’ve heard already the road is going to change. It is going to have to change whether it is in Puslinch’s ownership or not,” said Creed.

Lever said the road “simply doesn’t meet the current standards; it is an issue which needs to be addressed.” He believed the “township can work with the city to find the best solution and maintain the rural feel.

“We’ve clearly heard how important that is to the residents.”

Council passed the motion approving the road transfer.

July 31, 2015


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