Morriston streetscape plantings could begin as early as this spring says consultant

Councillors here are hopeful that plantings for the first phase of the Morriston streetscape project can begin by late May or early June.

Aaron Hill, Landscape Architect with MacKinnon & Associates spoke to council regarding Phase 1, Morriston streetscaping project.

Hill said this project has been in the works since 2013.

He explained he was there to provide more information on the various phases the project would take, along with potential timelines for work to be done. While the maps focussed on the overall master plan, not all of the work will be done at the same time, he noted.

He prefaced his comments stating “there is an MTO encroachment permit required for any work before a shovel goes into the ground.”

The application is in the ministry’s hands right now, Hill said.

Hill said work will start at the northern edge of Morriston with two planting areas, one of which will provide some screening of the MTO workyard.

Planting on the other side of the road will create a “gateway feature” to the community, he said. He said he believed the planting will be the bulk of the work in the first phase.

Moving south, there is a proposal to put some planters in front of the commercial block at Badenoch Road and Calfass – in front of the Change of Pace restaurant.

He said currently the area is not that friendly – as it is essentially a large parking lot.

Hill said this is an area of most concern to the MTO – because they were not thrilled with the ideas of planters being placed within the MTO right-of-way.

“We’ve had a bit of back and forth with the ministry about what we can and cannot do and have worked to address some of the visibility and maintenance concerns.”

Hill said it remains to be seen whether all of the MTO concerns have been addressed until the ministry undertakes a formal review of the township submission.

Until it is endorsed, Hill said it remains outside of work planned for the first phase of the project.

Also, near the south end of Morriston, there is a section where the right-of-way widens out.

At one point, Hill noted there is a boulevard between the highway and the street.

“This is one of the larger of the planting areas we have proposed.”

He stated that part of that work can be part of Phase 1, but some of that will depend on township finances.

He noted the township allocated $60,000 in its budget for the first phase of the project.

“We think this will work within that budget,” but Hill needed to verify some of the costs.

In many locations, there are obstacles to work around such as hydro poles and utility services.

“As far as timing, right now the schedule … we are hopeful that by mid- to late-April we will have an encroachment permit in hand.”

He said hoped the process would allow a contractor to be in place by late May or early June.

However, he said if the time-frame is extended, “we don’t want to be putting this in the ground in July and August.”

The heat and dryness of those months, Hill said create an inhospitable climate for trees.

As a result he said that any deferral would mean a recommendation to put off planting until September “to increase the survival rate of the plant materials.”

Even so, Hill said the work would still fall within the ministry allowances for work being done.

He doubted the current permit would cover off both phases of the project, but if the project is sent in now, the ministry can review everything which is being submitted – which he hoped would allow the next portion to proceed more quickly.

Hill suggested one reason behind his optimism for start dates is that this is not one of the most complicated projects the MTO will be reviewing.

Councillor Susan Fielding asked if Hill saw the MTO as being supportive of this work.

“I would say they are politely indifferent to it.”

Hill explained most of the concerns being raised were about setbacks and tree maintenance.

Councillor Wayne Stokley was pleased to see the project is still moving forward.

“At least if we are not starting this in the spring, it will be in the fall and there will be options.”

Hill noted some of the design is based on available land in which planting can be done.

Mayor Dennis Lever said that hopefully the encroachment permit will come soon.