The municipality will be closing a horse and buggy bypass originally set up to allow equine-powered travellers safe passage around a busy section of Elora Street North in Harriston.
In June, 2013, council approved use of an alternate horse and buggy route from Highway 9, at the Hutchison Street intersection, along John Street and over the former rail lines to Adelaide and John Street.
The move required that stop signs be installed at the corner of Adelaide and John to facilitate horse traffic exiting the wooded portion of the trail between the Harriston Industrial Park and the urban area.
The route was originally set up to alleviate concerns from the local Mennonite and Amish communities about driving horses through a gauntlet of trucks parked along Elora Street/Highway 9 in the area of Tim Hortons.
It was also felt the route would be safer for horse and buggy use during construction at the north end of Elora Street in 2013.
Public works staff monitored the use of the bypass and in May of 2014 public works director Brian Hansen recommended closing the route, which had been used on a few occasions by motorized vehicles which left deep ruts. At that time, council declined to close the route but instead wrote to the OPP requesting that parking restrictions along Elora Street be enforced with “zero tolerance.”
At the April 21 meeting, council was advised Hansen had spoken to members of both the Amish and Mennonite communities and determined the route was not being heavily used. Hansen reported buggy riders found the route helpful during the construction activity, but would prefer that large trucks be deterred from parking along the highway, as the noise from releasing air brakes frightens horses.
Hansen explained buggies can still follow Elora Street to Adelaide Street and then onto John Street south into the downtown.
“Without horse and buggy traffic coming from the trail on to John at Adelaide, the stop signs can be removed if that is council’s wish …. There was some public opposition when the stop signs went in.”
Hansen also pointed out John Street will be a detour route during road reconstruction in downtown Harriston this summer and “removing the stop signs would allow for more flow-through traffic.”
Council received the report and directed that the alternate route through the unopened road allowance be closed and notice be issued that the town plans to repeal the bylaw establishing the three-way stop at the intersection of John Street and Adelaide.
Council also agreed at the meeting to take action to prevent truck parking near the Tim Hortons outlet.
At the April 7 meeting, Hansen and chief building official Terry Kuipers presented a report regarding ongoing parking issues on Elora Street North at the Harriston Tim Hortons and on Minto Road at the Palmerston Tim Hortons.
Council approved a recommendation to amend the parking bylaw to prohibit the stopping and parking of vehicles on Minto Road between Main Street West and Frank Lambier Court in Palmerston.
A decision on installing parking barriers on the shoulders of Elora Street in Harriston was deferred to allow staff to investigate options.
At the April 21 meeting, a written report from Kuipers and Hansen indicated there appears to be no alternative product other than so-called “jersey barriers” – bright orange sand- or water-filled polypropylene structures about four feet long and three feet high – to prevent parking. The report provides three options:
– maintain status quo by not installing barriers and recommending the OPP increase the enforcement of the parking bylaw;
– install three jersey barriers on the westerly shoulder of Elora St. N to the north of Tuffy MacDougall Court, and install four barriers on the west shoulder of Elora south of the Tim Hortons entrance, and request that the OPP increase enforcement of the parking bylaw; or
– install a total of 12 jersey barriers, seven in the same locations as options two, with an additional five barriers between the driveways on the west shoulder of Elora.
The report acknowledges problems with all three options, noting the first relies on the OPP actually increasing enforcement, while the barriers installed under the other options “are not visually appealing” and would only prevent transport trucks from parking, as other vehicles will be able to pull in between the barriers.
Councillor Ron Elliott suggested passing a bylaw authorizing town staff to issue parking tickets.
“It appears the OPP aren’t going to do anything – we’ve dealt with this for several years,” said Elliott.
“My biggest concern is staff availability to be there during the times required,” replied roads foreman Mike McIssac.
While noting the option of having town staff issue tickets is available, CAO Bill White said, “regulation of the Highway Traffic Act stuff really should fall with the OPP.”
He added, “We would rather not do what councillor Elliott is saying, just because these people are enforcing other things and doing other things, but that option is available.”
Councillor Ron Faulkner agreed with Elliott.
“I do not like those barriers … and also a comment was made to me that we are aware of the parking issue therefore liability comes back on us,” said Faulkner.
“I contend that if we properly sign it … if somebody contravenes that bylaw the liability is on them. I just have issues with putting those barriers there. They’re unsightly for one thing and … I’m not convinced they solve the problem.”
Councillor Judy Dirksen, while conceding the barriers seem the only practical option, noted, “they don’t make us seem very welcoming.”
Truck drivers, she pointed out, “have to stop somewhere.”
Councillor Mary Lou Colwell also opposed the barriers and wondered if a bylaw could be put in place to allow staff to issue tickets, “if time permits.”
“It’s not only writing a ticket. It’s dealing with the person when you issue it and generally that ought to be done by somebody who does that for a living,” said White.
“I think we’re putting our staff at a bit of a risk,” agreed Mayor George Bridge. “They’re not used to that, the abuse (that results from) putting a ticket on a vehicle.”
Bridge also said he hoped the barriers could be “a temporary fix.” The mayor noted a recent announcement that the province will restore Connecting Links funding makes him hopeful the section of Elora Street can eventually be upgraded to include curbing, eliminating the need for parking barriers.
Meanwhile, he said, “I think we have to do more than hope putting up a couple of signs and getting the OPP to enforce it is going to work.”
Elliott disagreed with the idea town staff are not prepared to deal with negative reaction from issuing tickets.
“Our public works guys deal with that all the time I believe … I don’t think it puts our people at a disadvantage at all,” said Elliott, adding he believes a temporary enforcement “blitz” might clear up the problem on a long-term basis.
“I don’t believe we’ll ever get the OPP to do the job,” said Elliott.
“You can put signage up until the cows come home and if people don’t want to read it, they won’t,” said councillor Jean Anderson.
“As for the issue of enforcement, I have no doubt our staff could do it,” said White. However, he added, “I don’t want them standing down there arguing for half an hour over a $20 ticket.”
Colwell moved that council proceed with the second option, to install seven barriers and reassess the situation in six months.
“I agree. We’ve talked to the police, we’ve put up signs and now its time to go to Plan B, because that isn’t working,” said councillor Dave Turton.
Elliott requested a recorded vote on the motion, which passed 5-2 with Bridge, Turton, Anderson, Colwell and Dirksen in favor and Elliott and Faulkner opposed.
The barriers will cost about $700 each ($4,900 total).