The West Road Concerns ... by Tom Boyle

Background  - October 2014

In an effort to better balance the NBP share of the Bruce County County Road budget the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula agreed that a section of West Road in the former Township of Eastnor be taken out of the local municipal system and included in the County inventory as an arterial road. The County would then reconstruct this road section and pave it. With similar work done in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula this road would eventually become a great way to travel to Southampton and Port Elgin. Before the construction of the Highway 6 this was a popular travel route to accommodation in Spry and beyond. The residents of the Northern Bruce Peninsula would benefit from this distribution as the capital costs and all future maintenance would be paid by all residents of the county. On face value this seemed like a good idea to the local Council of the day and to the County and this deal was approved.  

The County of Bruce applied for grants for this construction when there was a flurry of Federal and Provincial money available and they were successful. In Eastnor some property needed to be acquired for some widening but this did not seem to be a problem which could not be solved by compromising on a softer and lower speed design. Prior to the municipal amalgamation in c.1997 the County reconstructed the road on the opposite side of the Peninsula (County Road 9) This reconstruction was done after the acquisition of property for road allowance. The horizontal and vertical alignments were adapted meet a lower speed design and the completed construction received a Niagara Escarpment Development Achievement Award. It could be expected that the reconstruction of the East Road would be similar and after public input proceed in such a way that would be proper and popular. 

In the Town of South Bruce Peninsula the re-routing was not as easy and there was some objection mostly in the Red Bay area to the expected influx of traffic into and through the area. After much to do about Official Plan considerations and a Municipal Board hearing the Board decided that the County would not be able to proceed without a full environmental assessment if there was to be any widening of the right away. As a result the road section in both municipalities remains unimproved.

When federal/provincial infrastructure funding was available this work was shovel ready. Due to extraordinary circumstances this funding was applied to roads outside of NBP. 

 

 

Bruce County West Road – Update – March 25. 2015 

Since the beginning of 2015 the Northern Bruce Peninsula Council and the Town of South Bruce Peninsula Council have expressed two opposing opinions on the future of this section of Bruce County Highway. 

The Northern Bruce Peninsula unanimously supported a motion 

THAT the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula formally reaffirms its support for the reconstruction of the West Road; 

AND THAT when the West Road is constructed to County of Bruce standards, it will improve public safety and increase economic development opportunities within the Municipality.

 

The Town of South Bruce Peninsula supported 

That the Town of South Bruce Peninsula does not support any reconstruction of the West Road beyond regular maintenance, that is maintenance that would not require an environmental assessment;

 That no environmental assessment be undertaken along the West Road since no need for the reconstruction has been shown;

That Council's position be forwarded to the County of Bruce, North Bruce Peninsula and to the Ministry of Environment.

  

The northern ten kilometers of the West Road is located in the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula. This section is located south of Ferndale Road and runs south to Sutter Road east of the Pike Bay community. Of this distance about five and one half kilometers of the south end of this section is under-constructed and not surface-treated and would not meet the standard of even a lower rated local municipal road in the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula. It has always been the expectation of the past councils of MNBP and the former Eastnor Township that this road would be treated as an upper class road and be brought up to a necessary standard.

 The route of this north road section is well established and there would be no major alignment issues. There is one prominent wetland feature around which the road deviates and this would be a concern during the process. There have been local concerns related to the width of the right of way and property acquisitions. These issues have always been handled amicability in the past. MNBP Council supports an environmental assessment process as the proper public process to follow in order to address all the concerns related to every issue of the road and the council members are familiar with the process.

 MNBP Council understands an environmental assessment is required for the entire 27 kilometer length of the road in both of the local municipalities and sees that this process is complicated by the design issues and early public objections in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula. Recent motions of non-support and rejection by TSBP council prior to an environmental assessment supposes that the residents object to any substantial designs changes to the present roadway either now or in the near future.

 MNBP Council has heard much about the issue of industrial wind turbine development using this roadway for both transmission and transportation. MNBP remain not a willing host for any more IWT development. Given the history of this road within MNBP Council does not fear that the routing or design would be a great benefit to the IWT industry. With the current level of not support for the road improvement by TSBP, MNBP is now more confident that the concerns of some northern residents with regard to the road and IWT development will no longer be as great and issue and that Council can address the roadway improvements in a more traditional manner.

 

Opinion:

 As a member of the MNBP Council I support the public process which looks at all the information related to this issue and properly decides on the best course of action.

I would like Bruce Co Council to spend our fair share of County dollars to improve this road to a level that is right for the needs of the people of the communities that it should serve.

 I believe that the information circulating presently regarding IWTs is speculative but if TSBP is not benefiting from the road reconstruction then that corridor/transmission issue should not be an issue.

 Transportation needs of our local community will be served by this road and in a manner similar to the Bruce Co Road 9 (East Road) on which I live.

Bruce Co. builds great roads and I am pleased to have played part in the development of the county system in addition to all the improvements made to our local roads.

 I have faith in the professionalism our county engineer.

 I appreciate seeing a member of TSBP council at our council meetings.

 Long range I hope that the West Road can assist in our community development by allowing for means of alternative transportation which is more suitable than Highway 6. A suitable allowance is needed for usual services.

 Future councils may support supplying natural gas to the MNBP and the West Road may be the preferred route given the level of residential development. At this time the gas line stops at Sauble Falls and another at Wiarton. We would hope that the TSBP Council of the day sees a future need for this service extension to their neighbours to the north even if they have Bruce Co return the road back to them.

 I would encourage residents to travel both the east and west side of the Bruce Peninsula on County Road and compare and evaluate the pros and cons.

 

Reprint of an articles appearing in the 

Owen Sound Sun Times 

 Saturday, March 21, 2015

By Don Crosby
OWEN SOUND SUN TIMES

Outrage over peninsula road plan

South Bruce Peninsula vows to fight resurrected plan for collector road

The revival of a Bruce County plan to create a collector road along the west shore of the Bruce Peninsula is drawing fire from the mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, whose council is on record opposing the proposal.

“We will take that into consideration,” county engineer Brian Knox said during a highways committee meetingThursday.

South Bruce Peninsula council recently passed a motion saying the town does not support reconstruction of the West Road.

A copy of the motion was presented to Thursday’s highways committee meeting. It was accepted without comment or discussion, which disappointed South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson.

“I don’t think they realize the position fully of South Bruce Peninsula and the fact that we are absolutely against it . . . we are prepared to fight. I think as we get closer to the environmental assessment process, I think that’s when the gloves will come off,” Jackson said following the meeting.

“There are a lot of very vocal people and with a lot of resources along that road that are prepared to drop the gloves as well. I’m not alone, they are not alone and we’re going to see this all the way through.”

Back in 2004 Bruce County council accepted a recommendation of the county engineer that a series of roads along Lake Huron shoreline be designated as a county road to be known as the West Road. It runs from Oliphant to Ferndale, a distance of 29 kilometres, through South Bruce Peninsula and Northern Bruce Peninsula.

In a bid to stop the project, a group of residents appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2012.

The board ruled the West Road was a part of the county road system but that no widening should be undertaken until a class environmental assessment was completed along the entire 29 km route. Any widening done after that should be in accordance with the findings of the assessment.

The ruling also clearly stated the county must consult with Saugeen First Nation before proceeding.

“The Ontario Municipal Board hearing made a number of conclusions and we’re implementing those conclusions,” Knox said Thursday during a discussion of the project. “We want to take an environmental assessment on the full 29 kilometres and we want to consider a variety of options.”

Opponents of the West Road project say there is no reason to turn local roads in a county collector road and increase traffic in resort communities and through environmentally sensitive areas when Highways 6, which is just a few kilometres to the east, could accommodate the north-south traffic. Jackson said after the meeting she believes the real reason behind the push by the county for the road is to accommodate wind energy developers.

“As we know, in excess of 200 wind turbines are planned for our little peninsula and (developers) need a way to transport the equipment up and they need the electrical lines, so they are going to need an avenue to facilitate that,” Jackson said.

She said many farmers on the north side of the West Road have already signed contracts with wind turbine companies.

“It’s a tourist peninsula and we don’t need to be looking at almost 300 wind turbines, which would be a horrific sight,” she said.

Doug Pratt, a cottage owner along the proposed West Road who attended Thursday’s highways committee meeting, was disappointed the committee took no notice of South Bruce Peninsula’s motion.

“They tabled it for information which means to me the county is prepared to build the road through South Bruce Peninsula, through significant provincial wetlands and resort areas against the will of the current council,” he said.

Jackson said she expects there will be concerted effort by several stakeholders opposed to the county plans.

“To my understanding Saugeen Ojibway Nation is not in favour of this construction, the Town of South Bruce Peninsula is not in favour of this construction. Our residential communities all along this route are up in arms.

“We’re talking about going through nine wetlands and two resort communities. It’s mindboggling why we even want to go down this road,” she said.

Jackson tried unsuccessfully to get Knox to agree to a road needs study at Thursday’s meeting, something that hasn’t been done since 2004.

“There’s nothing to substantiate the need as far as traffic flow. I don’t see any justification for this construction at all,” Jackson said.

Knox promised the highways committee a report by May 9, after he and county officials have met with SON officials, on his plans for development of the road.

“Our intent is to keep the committee and subsequently the public up to date with our very initial considerations,” he said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:11 AM by Jon Meyer

Mayor Concerned About Turbines

 
Mayor Jackson is concerned $10-million road project is for 300 new wind turbines.

(Oliphant )

 The Mayor of South Bruce Peninsula believes Bruce County wants to widen a road for future wind turbine construction and not for the reasons they claim.


The County is looking into making a series of local roads into a county road, known as "West Road."

The County would need to widen a 29 kilometre stretch on the Peninsula's West Shore, at a cost of $10 million dollars.

South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson disagrees with the County's claim that the project is needed for an increase in traffic.

Jackson argues the project is actually for some 300 wind turbines proposed on the Peninsula.

She says a lot of farmers in the area have signed contracts for turbines.

She says they can't bring the turbines in without a road that is wide enough to handle the transmission lines and equipment.

She says highway 6 is plenty big enough to handle tourist traffic.

Jackson says if increased traffic is really the reason the County wants to widen the road, they need to back it up.

Jackson says she asked twice for the county to complete a roads study to warrant such a large project.

But she says the County told her there is no money in the budget, which she finds ironic considering they are proposing a $10 million dollar project.

County Engineer Brain Knox is quoted as saying the County will take an environmental assessment of the full 29 kilometres to consider their options.

The West Road project goes primarily through South Bruce Peninsula and into parts of Northern Bruce Peninsula, from Oliphant to Ferndale.

South Bruce Peninsula is on record as being against the plan.

Jackson says most area residents and are in their corner with a lot of resources at their disposal to fight the project with.


Public response to my recent update post:
 
March 27, 2015
 "Hi Tom.  Thank you for taking the time to do this.  It is much appreciated.  I am sharing it with a few of our members to get their reaction.  So far, I have not had positive feedback but after we are all able to sit down and give it a good look I will get back to you.
Thanks again,"

----------------------
March 27, 2015
"Hi Tom, thanks for your e-mail.I don’t understand why the history reduces fears or how the design etc. can eliminate or even lessen the fear that the West Road will not be advantageous to the WT industry.This cannot be judged until the design,width, surface etc. are known.I don’t have the trust in the WT  industry or the County that you seem to.There has been too much secrecy and misleading information from these sources to create any confidence in them.

All parties seem reluctant to share information in a timely or open manner with the citizens on the Bruce and elsewhere.So of course this breeds distrust and Council’s recent behaviour has not helped.

Maybe you can shed some light on this?"

My response:

If you and other community members lack trust in your elected representatives to deliver a good system of roads at an affordable price then I may lack the talent to improve that particular situation.
What I can do is to do what I have said that I was going to do since I have been involved. (1992)  I have no fear and my agenda is no secret. I can not speak for the IWT industry or for anyone outside of my experience.
 
Now that TSBP has refused any county road construction I would think that the environmental assessment would reflect that fact. Options presented through the EA could then be limited to the MNBP road section and we could continue with the historic improvements that were begun before we gave the county the road section. 
 
Our council has supported the public process that brings the issue to the proper forum in a timely and open manner. If you can tell me that there is a better process in your experience please do. I can see nothing wrong with the Council's behaviour and each member of Council agrees in the role of the EA process. 
 
To put it simply and honestly, I want a nice well constructed paved road from Hatts Corner to Sutter Road that is paid for with County dollars. I want the EA process to take place and if this process tells me that our community is better served by a do nothing approach I will readily agree to see resources go elsewhere in the County. Milt has only one vote on County Council and they would be pleased to see our money spent for the betterment of their communities.
Tom
__________

"THANKS FOR YOUR QUICK RESPONSE TOM.REFRESH MY MEMORY THOUGH,WHAT WERE THE HISTORIC IMPROVEMENTS THAT WERE BEGUN BEFORE THE MNBP TURNED THE ROAD OVER TO THE COUNTY?

THANKS AGAIN"

My response:

March 28, 2014

Dear ....,
I can point out that the existing West Road in Eastnor is the historic north south arterial road which linked Lake Huron communities of the north to Port Elgin and Southampton.
Highway 6 was the last road construct of the three north south roads and this was done around 1945 I believe after the drainage systems were well established.
Gerald and Shiela Hatt's home in Spry is a carefully reconstructed heritage home which use to serve as a rooming house for travellers. This road was also the route of the first telephone line and the original switchboard and residential system was located in Spry. 

Since 1980 improvements started from Hatt's Corner (Ferndale Road/Bruce Road 9) and the road was upgraded and eventually paved about halfway to Spry.

Later the road was upgraded to Spry and improved somewhat for another few hundred meters.
There was not much money for road construction in the late 1990's but the pavement was extended south to the waste disposal site entrance.
After the 15th side road was reconstructed and drainage issues were addressed in the vicinity of the West Road intersection the pavement was added up to that intersection.
Some road construction was done for a few hundred meters to the base of the hill and then the deal was made with Bruce Co.
If you travel the road today you will be able to see exactly what condition it was in when it was turned over to the County. Little or no improvements have been made since then.
If we had kept the road we would have reconstructed it to the standard that you can see on the East Road which runs from Lindsay Road five to Tammy's Cove Road. We would have done the EA, applied for our own grants and added shoulders and adequate drainage. We would have considered widening where necessary. If we were doing it today we would consider the fact that there is no good north south road linking the west side communities that can be travel safely by alternative transportation or by foot for that matter. You will also know that most all the side roads are in much better shape than the north south arterial. Just recently we improved Sutter Road so that we could match it up nicely with the new county construction. 
Is it okay to circulate your concerns and questions to interested parties?
 
_______________
 

March 29, 2014

Tom,thank you again for your reply.I was aware of most of the history that you sent .I knew most of it partly because we live close to the West Road and drive up and down it frequently year round and have done so for over 30 years.
Since Wind Turbines reared their ugly heads in Ontario there has been an outcry against them.This has only increased as people learned more about them and the terrible  ramifications they create.
As you and the rest of Council are aware many people have worked hard to keep wind powered turbines off the Peninsula,spending a few thousand dollars of their own money to assist people to understand the potential  for the Peninsula to be overrun by these turbines.
We believe this threat is still there. We also firmly believe that if another major road is constructed up the narrow North Bruce Peninsula , that threat will become a reality
We know that Tribute Resources has signed up for thousands of acres in the Ferndale area under a company called Ferndale Power Corporation! Does this not clearly signify the potential for invading WPT’s ? It certainly does for me,and with all due respect, I cannot understand why our Council does not see it. Yes, they have declared the MNBP not a willing host ,but ,I don’t believe for a minute that Premier Wynn will honour that if a major WPT developer decides to build in our area.I also understand that Tribute has,in the past,sold off part of its holdings to Samsung.
I am also surprised that our Council has not even tried to protect us by developing some appropriate by laws in an attempt to do so.
I know that you regularly attend the Multi Municipal Working Group meetings and I am advised that various municipalities ,who also attend, have introduced by laws that they have offered to other participants so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Why have we declined them?
It is unfortunate that interested and concerned citizens have had to seek out information and ask questions that they believe should be asked by our elected representatives.But,the fear remains, that not enough of this is seen or heard from Council.If this does happen,why is it not more widely known?
Tom,I am sure that you agree that members of Council can be assisted in serving  their citizens best when they know what these people are thinking and hopefully expecting.
It is better situation when your citizens know honestly what Councillors are thinking and doing and why.
I have expressed previously that there is scepticism about the County of Bruce.There is a significant number who feel,rightly or wrongly, that County Council and key staff are not sufficiently forthcoming with information.
In summation Tom,I am sorry that I still haven’t heard or read anything that has dispelled any of my fears or answered many of my questions.
I also believe that this is  also the feeling of  many other people.This is unfortunate because,although there will always be differing opinions on issues,all sides should be comfortable that full relevant information is being freely and widely made known to everyone concerned.
WE ARE ALL DISTRUSTFUL   ABOUT WHAT IS EXACTLY BEING PROPOSED FOR THE WEST ROAD BECAUSE ,TO DATE,THAT SPECIFIC INFORMATION HAS NOT BEEN PROVIDED TO US.WE ARE SUSPICIOUS THAT THIS WILL BECOME THE WAY ( HOPEFULLY THE ONLY WAY ) THAT WILL ENABLE WPT”S ON OUR PENINSULA.
Sincerely,

My response:

March 29, 2015

Dear....

I did wonder why you asked me about the history of the road. However that review encouraged me to view a design from a more historic perspective. I also took a closer look at the Bury Road and pedestrian opportunities. It makes sense to look at options for all roads in the area when considering the design of one.
 
So I would suppose at this time if an EA was undertaken for this road you might be in favour of the "do nothing" option.
For the same reasons then would all future municipal road development on the Eastnor and Lindsay flats not be appropriate as long as there would be a threat of IWT development?
 
Our Council is asking for an open public process to take place regarding this road. You lack trust in a proposal that has not yet been proposed.
Our Council speaks by motion and by law at open public meetings. There is no hidden agenda or back room boys conspiring for or against any policy at this level of government.
I know the Bruce County players and they follow the same rules. I have not witnessed any dealings which are questionable on any issues. 
 
With regard to IWT development the last Council chose not to engage our legal staff to develop by laws which would address this development. We had a lawyer address the public at an open meeting and we received his recommendations afterwards. We have attended many meetings and we are aware of what options are available to us. If the new council is resigned that IWT development will take place and wishes to pass laws which deal with proposed IWT development then the issue will certainly come to Council again.
I suppose that many property owners have signed contracts with IWT developers as they might have done since the three existing turbines were proposed and constructed. 
 
I will post your comments and those others which I have received without any personal reference.
 
______________
 
"March 30, 2015

Tom,I believe you are the one who raised “history of the road”but never mind it was interesting in any event.

Again you have jumped to an incorrect assumption.I don’t think many of the objectors want the “do nothing” option.We are concerned that the option to be presented will open the door for WPT’s.I would have thought you would have understood that by now.

I do lack trust when a proposal takes so long to become public and our Council did not help our confidence when it passed the motion unanimously to approve the West Road especially in the manner it was done and, it seems, without you knowing the proposal either.Tom, I do think your remark about all future road development is childish and beneath you.I don’t wish to go to war with you personally just because we have a difference of opinion.Future action by the County and Council will convince me one way or the other about hidden agendas or non public decisions."


My General Comment

The Council of the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula along with the County of Bruce should clearly explain the Environmental Assessment Process.

 https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/preparing-environmental-assessments

This process should be understood as the best way to present the issues and to acquire necessary opinions, options, information and study.