Fifty feet each way

It may sound a bit cynical, but the old adage about residents only caring about the 50 feet on each side of their driveway bears some truth.

There are headier topics, like plans for water and sewer currently down in Erin, gravel pits that seem to pop up here and there, or planning issues that rile up neighbourhoods in small villages facing large scale development.

Mobilizing residents and getting council’s attention on those concerns is no easy feat. Much thanks is owed to those who do champion causes for shining a light on issues and inspiring conversation.

The most recent example of that was the group in Elora concerned about height restrictions within the core, from a heritage and scale perspective. Most residents would find the introduction of a skyscraper in a small village abhorrent, but at what point does a tall structure become out of place: three stories, five stories, eight stories? These are the questions being asked. And what of the economic interest, where the high price of land demands a developer to make the most of its investment?

These are all community questions and conversations had when Official Plans and zoning bylaws are adopted. As is usually the case, the requisite public meetings are sparsely attended and planning consultants use prevailing wisdom of the day to implement their plans. All is well, until the plan is executed and one of the many eventualities contemplated in one of those documents lands within 50 feet either way of a homeowner’s driveway.

“Nobody told me” is a classic response at that moment.

To us, people should be more involved with their local government. This is where people reside, raise families if they wish, and hopefully retire. It only makes sense to understand, support and appreciate any opportunity for input. But alas, most people are incredibly busy, raising a family or getting to and from work.

Not surprising, but nevertheless a curious coincidence to recent events, residents in Salem gathered to voice concerns about the onslaught of gravel haulers this construction season.

In no shape or form could this route be considered an ideal situation, where trucks must enter the oncoming lane to make their way around the bend. It is wholly unsafe. That 50-foot rule sure kicks in as homeowners face something they didn’t sign up for.

It is a similar feeling that residents along Wellington Road 7 have with the Highway 6 alternate truck route sought and executed by Centre Wellington. Excessive, unsafe traffic is no one’s wish. Mapleton council has since passed a resolution requesting the county reconsider going along with this selfish plan. Time will see what the roads committee does with this in the fall, while Guelph/Eramosa has yet to speak for its residents impacted by the alternate route.

It has been roughly 20 years since amalgamation rolled West Garafraxa, Fergus, Elora, portions of old Nichol and Pilkington into one happy family. The virtues of that marriage were finally the capacity to plan and map out a future without parochial interests. How is that working, particularly as it relates to transportation and planning with purpose? Arguably it is not.

The approval of subdivisions and construction of homes without infrastructure to accommodate traffic is a disservice to the community. It is not a new topic and certainly will only get worse until a holistic approach to transportation is taken.

We must get past the 50-foot adage and think of the bigger picture in real terms.