Here we go again. The owner of Home Hardware in Alcona is the latest to complain about the streetscape centre median on Innisfil Beach Road as being “unsafe”. Two years after completion, the objection rings hollow. He says there have been accidents. I shop there, on foot and by car, and I’m not aware of any. I’d have to see the statistics and accident reports. What charges were laid? Speeding? Following too close? Failing to yield? Making an improper turn?
But what we are now learning from newspaper reports is that business owners may not have been adequately consulted on the streetscape design before construction. Most of the complaints about the median have been about road access to specific properties. (The Alcona Home Hardware still has two driveways.) But the Town policy for the commercial core area is to discourage breaking up the sidewalk with numerous driveway entrances and to encourage street-front commercial space instead of street-front parking lots. So the “fall-back” complaint seems to be to claim the median is somehow unsafe and therefore demand its removal.
The real failure here is the lack of consensus among residents, businesses, developers and the Town regarding the redesign of our urban landscape and a failure to develop an understanding of the reasons for it. With better understanding parties could cooperate to find appropriate solutions to what I think are modest problems. I don’t think most members of Council are prepared to further mutilate a fundamental infrastructure project that has been two-thirds complete for two years.
If we look back a year or so, the owner of the Tim Horton’s franchise claimed his business would be ruined because of the median and wanted it removed. The store now has a two-lane drive-through on the cross street and is busier than ever. The obvious solution for Home Hardware is to reconfigure one of their driveways as part of the proposed store conversion to a Home Building Centre, and possibly close the other. If the Town failed to adequately consult with the owner, then it may be fair for the Town to contribute to the cost of realigning or redesigning the driveway. Supporting and promoting local business is one of the objectives of Inspiring Innisfil as well. I’ve heard that the owner of Home Hardware has experienced nothing but delays, frustration and added expense in dealing with the Town in his efforts to expand his business. What are the obstacles here?
Let’s accept that we’re not going backwards to the old ‘car-is-king’ street design. Let’s work together to make the new design work. Let’s make a walkable commercial core a reality. All businesses and developers need to accept the new reality and work with it, not against it. The Town needs to defend its decisions, build consensus but be flexible and creative enough to make some improvements where warranted.