Council puts Inverhuron access gate debate to rest, again

Section: 
News

 

By Barb McKay

 

An emergency access gate in Inverhuron will remain closed to the public, municipal council has decided.

 

A debate over who should be able to use a section of Victoria Street and Upper Lorne Beach in the closed gate community of Mystic Cove during winter months has been ongoing since 2010 and was raised again during last Wednesday’s Municipality of Kincardine council meeting.

 

The gates are accessible only to residents of the shoreline community and emergency vehicles. However, when Highway 21 and Bruce Road 23 are closed during winter storms, the gates are opened to allow Bruce Power buses to transport essential staff to the site.

 

Council has been petitioned by residents multiple times to open the access gates to the general public when the highway and Bruce Road 23 are closed in the winter to allow for travel between the north end of the municipality and Kincardine. Each time, council has elected to stick with its policy to open the gates only to Bruce Power buses, citing concerns about municipal liability, as the road is not designed for heavy traffic.

 

When the issue was last raised in 2015, residents of the gated community spoke against changing the current policy, citing safety concerns. Some members of council agreed, noting that the road is not designed to handle additional traffic. Other residents who travel between Kincardine and Tiverton for work, however, called for the road to be opened when the highway is closed due to weather. The majority of council agreed with Mystic Cove residents and chose to stick with the municipal policy.

 

In January, Councillor Gord Campbell told council he was having second thoughts and would like to revisit the policy. Municipal staff was directed to look into it and report back at a future meeting. In May, public works staff met with representatives from Bruce Power, the County of Bruce and the South Bruce OPP to get their thoughts on the policy to determine if the gates should remain emergency access gates only or be open to public traffic during winter road closures.

 

Bruce Power raised a concern that if the gates were open to public traffic Bruce Power employees might be more likely to drive through in their own vehicles rather than electing to take the bus, which would add unnecessary traffic to the road.

 

The OPP reported that they would have limited resources to monitor traffic and speed on the road in the event of a winter storm because their staff would be dealing with other issues related to the storm. As well, additional traffic on the road could impede emergency vehicles.

 

The county indicated that it would support any decision the municipality makes regarding its policy and noted that it will be installing stationary road closed signs this summer that can be activated remotely at the intersection of Upper Lorne Beach and Bruce Road 23.

 

Municipal staff echoed the concern that heavier traffic volumes would create problems for emergency vehicles and added that the road is too narrow for regular vehicles and snow plows to pass each other.

 

The report was presented at last Wednesday’s council meeting and the issue was opened up for debate once again. Upper Lorne Beach resident Eleanor Roppel addressed council as a delegation and said that while she would not want the gates open to the public year round, and in fact bought her home because she liked that traffic is limited, she would like to see the gates opened when other roads are closed in poor weather to allow people to get into Kincardine if they need to.

 

“I think it is necessary that we have a route when Highway 21 is closed and when Bruce Road 23 is closed at Lorne Beach,” Roppel said. “I’d like you to consider other people, not just hydro people. It’s not up to us to judge what’s important (as a reason to drive into town).”

 

Councillor Randy Roppel said he has not swayed from his position to open the gates.

 

“This is our road, not their road – it’s a public road and we use taxpayer money to maintain it,” he said. “Where is their say in this? Bruce Power and the OPP don’t make the policy for this, we do – the elected officials...We’re paying for the road. Take the damn gates down and let’s get on with it.”

 

Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Faubert said there are exceptions where the OPP and the county make policies and the municipality has to make sure it is operating within those guidelines. She asked Public Works Director Adam Weishar what it would take to bring the section of road between the gates up to standard to allow for regular traffic. Weishar said he looked at past reports and there are no details on what the cost would be.

 

Mayor Anne Eadie said the road is a typical cottage road, and if it is not the width of a regular municipal road the municipality would need to expropriate land to widen it, which would be very costly. She said she supports keeping the policy the way it.

 

Councillor Maureen Couture agreed.

 

“The fewer people on the roads in that kind of weather the better, and the safer people will be. If I had someone sick in my house I wouldn’t be driving them to the hospital myself, I’d be calling 911.”

 

Campbell said taxpayers pay for the road and should be able to use it. He said he would like to see the gate open to all traffic during winter storms.

 

Eadie said there are liability concerns with increasing traffic on a road that is not designed for heavy traffic flows.

 

Council voted 5-2 to maintain its current policy for the emergency access gates.