Parksville city council have deferred making a decision on proposed $1.75 million renovations to Memorial Avenue in favour of first consulting with local businesses that may be affected by a change in traffic.
Alongside the water and sewer infrastructure upgrade, city staff have proposed that the street become a one-way for cars, with the rest of the space dedicated towards a public square, and providing more room for the 34 American elm trees planted in memorial of Parksville First World War soldiers who died in active duty.
Michael Lonsdale, with the city’s engineering department, presented the early stages of the plan to Parksville city council at the Dec. 16 meeting, and asked for approval to continue with a detailed design and further engagement.
“There is a great deal more space that is able to be dedicated back to the original memorial trees, to preserve their health, and ensure their continued survival for future generations. As well, there is additional space that is dedicated to pedestrians, to make sure that it’s a space for everyone and it’s functional for those on the street,” said Lonsdale.
He described the public square as a space that could host a variety of community activities, including things like a food truck area, art exhibitions, cultural events and even a potential extension to the Craig Street market.
Vehicle traffic on the street would flow one-way, with access to the road on the western end at McMillan Street. On-street parking would be allocated on the south side of the road. Lonsdale said that the plan currently envisions vehicles leaving the street through the city-owned parking lot beside the Masonic Temple.
He also spoke about the importance of preserving the elm trees on Memorial. The streetscape renovations would allow more space for the trees to preserve their health. Currently, two of the 34 trees have been assessed to be in poor health.
The project would also see significant upgrades to underground storm, sanitary and water mains that are in need of replacement.
Lonsdale said that results of public engagement in the summer of 2019 support the idea of a public square.
“People would like a pedestrian thoroughfare where everybody is welcome and everybody is comfortable,” said Lonsdale.
Lonsdale says the plan is guided by three main points: to create a functional street for everyone to enjoy, a space that visitors want to experience and a space that everyone will remember.
Many councillors voiced their support for the project, including Coun. Mark Chandler, Coun. Doug O’Brien and Coun. Marilyn Wilson.
Coun. Al Greir expressed hesitation.
“I’m not totally against this project, but for $1.7 million, maybe we could certainly look at something that would be a better payoff than this. So I am concerned that we’re spending a lot of money. At the end of the day, we have some old trees, we have less parking, and we have a town square that might not be used very much,” said Greir.
Mayor Ed Mayne expressed support for the project, but suggested that consultation with businesses along Memorial Avenue was needed before moving ahead.
“I really really like Memorial Avenue. I think it’s amazing. My concern is, we have a number of businesses that have invested their livelihoods, all of their money into it, and we haven’t really sat down and talked to each one of them and said ‘is this going to work for you?’ … Without knowing that, I think it would be unfair for us to make that decision until we knew what those ramifications were going to be,” said Mayne.
Coun. Teresa Patterson made a motion to defer proceeding with a more detailed design until consultation was undertaken with businesses and property owners on Memorial Avenue. The deferral gives council until the end of January to consult.
The deferral motion passed 4-3.