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Sidewalk encroachment fuels ire

Sidewalk on Ridge Road encroaches on private property.An error by town staff has added insult to injury for at least one Ridgeway resident and has reopened controversy over the streetscape of the town’s $7 million Ridge Road reconstruction project.

Four properties on the east side of the street near Dominion Road will have 2.6 feet sliced off to allow for widening of the sidewalk.

It’s not unusual for municipal works to encroach on private land, but the encroachments on Ridge Road weren’t noticed until work was well underway in July.

“It was an oversight,” public works director Ron Tripp told council in August.

The error was not caused by rushing the job. “It happens sometimes,” he said.

The project was put on an accelerated pace last year to take advantage of federal stimulus funding that paid two-thirds of the cost for the underground services and road work.

“I wish I had caught it,” said project manager Sherri-Marie Miller. “When we did, we went right to the property owners and explained the situation.”

Tripp said the amount required to buy the lands is within the contingency allowance for the project.

According to one of the property owners, Keith Overend, the amount is $12.50 per square foot for his land.

Silent protest of tree cutting.The situation has him shaking his head. Two mature trees had already been cut down in front of his place, plus one next door and another across the street.

“They’ve removed the heritage component of the street,” Overend said, adding that the tree-lined streets have been a marketing advantage that is now lost.

“It’s dumb. They cut down trees and are going to install tree pits on a wider sidewalk, and take some of my property to do it when they could have built around the trees.”

Millar said residents had plenty of opportunity to make their views known. Every Ridge Road property owner was notified of the streetscape plan and a public open house to view the preliminary design was held at town hall.

Ridgeway BIA members were invited to three meetings at different stages of the project and design changes were made as a result, she said, noting that she also had been in constant contact with business owner Jason Pizzicarola who has relayed concerns of the BIA members.

Overend said he met with Millar, Tripp and “two people from the legal department.” Three options were dictated: redesign the road, purchase or expropriate.

“Six months ago they cut down the trees and I told them it could have been designed differently,” he said. He was assured his garden beside the old sidewalk would remain.

“Like everyone else,” Overend said, he was all in favour of replacing services, but there was nothing wrong with the sidewalk. “I figured they just put it back like it was.”

In keeping with the streetscape concept illustrated in the Ridgeway-Thunder Bay Neighbourhood Plan, the sidewalk design included “urban Braille” with “rumble strips” for visually-impaired people and wheelchairs and scooters.

Curb and sidewalk “bumpouts” will be built at the intersections, but six mid-block bumpouts were eliminated from the design after complaints arose.

A public open house to review the preliminary design was held last November, but the final design was not vetted by town council.

Restaurant owner Paul Emond is angry about the bumpouts, saying they needlessly reduce on-street parking and create hazards for drivers.

He said other cities are removing bumpouts from their business districts and Fort Erie should just forget about putting them in.

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  1. George Jardine | Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    The Town stealing land that does not belong to the Town, encroaching on peoples frontage happens to much, some people have lost ten feet of frontage through enlargement of storm ditches they are paying taxes on land that the Town has stolen off in point Royal Manor Drive.

  2. Mike Cloutier | Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    I don’t know where Royal Manor Drive is.

  3. Keith Overend | Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    “Millar said residents had plenty of opportunity to make their views known. Every Ridge Road property owner was notified of the streetscape plan and a public open house to view the preliminary design was held at town hall.”
    “Ridgeway BIA members were invited to three meetings at different stages of the project ”
    First off I’m not a member of the BIA (I’m a residential property) so I was NEVER notified of any of the BIA meetings.
    Secondly, every engineer, technician and technologist employed by the Town missed the encroachments, so how were ordinary citizens supposed to pick up on it? Even after I pointed out where the property line was to everybody who came by (from the Town and from Beam), I was told not to worry, the Town would not come onto private property. Then, one day they just cut down the trees on my property! Suprise! Even then they denied that they were going to encroach on my property. Lie after lie after lie.
    As for the “urban braille” sidewalks which were considered such an important safety feature for the visually impaired, aparently it’s only important to cater to the blind in downtown cores, as the “braille” stops at the residential section, and no sidewalks in residential neighbourhoods contain this feature.
    Lastly the bumpouts take a toral of 14 parking spaces away from a street that is already desperately short of parking. Leasing parking spaces down by the trail is not going to help with the parking squeeze up by Dominion Rd. We already have people park in our driveway many times a day because they are too lazy to walk one or two extra parking spaces. They park for 5 or 10 minutes to pick up Chinese food, 15 to 45 minutes if they shop at the Dollar Store or up to 3 days if they are getting drunk at Ridgeway’s Restaurant. Neither the police nor bylaw enforcemant will do anytthing about this parking problem. In fact I have been threatened by a past Staff Sargent at the Fort Erie detachment if I ever called again about a parking issue! Nice.
    We paid thousands of dollars to construct a circular driveway so we would have access from at least one driveway (most of the time). When the Peoples Church hosts a funeral or wedding, we usually have both driveways blocked.
    Now it will be much worse.
    Downtown Ridgeway’s design had worked for almost 200 years, why did they screw it up?

  4. Mike Cloutier | Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    The loss of those trees is devastating to the street. The addition of bumpouts at the intersections doesn’t make sense to me. If anywhere, a couple mid-block to protect the trees would have been great. They could improve the parking situation on Cutler to make up for the loss of a few parking spots on Ridge.

    I think possibly the traffic control they are seeking with the intersection bumpouts could be served by making Hershey one way toward Ridge and Hibbard one-way to Propect. There’s also the issue of loading and unloading that isn’t helped by the new bumpouts. And if you want to turn right on Dominion to go to Fort Erie, and there’s a guy ahead waiting to turn left . . . you’re out of luck.

    The final plan for the streetscape was not brought to council. This is where the council failed. The chairman of the public works committee, Bob Steckley, should have brought it to council to say, okay, here it is, your new Ridge Road.

    I don’t believe the “urban braille” is helpful to people who can’t see.

    And this fountain/water feature thingy at a “Civic Square,” that’s going to be a nightmare.

  5. Patty Mountain | Sep 12, 2010 | Reply

    First off we are receiving 7 million dollars of free upgrades, thank you Town of Fort Erie. Secondly, if the Town was perfect there would be no room for improvement and growth, people are to learn from their mistakes, so they need a little bit of land to widen our sidewalks and they forgot to ask us, did God not teach us all to be forgiving Christians? BUMP THIS! The new codes and laws in the 21st century do not allow parking within so many metres of a corner so no one is losing a parking space. I was born and raised in Fort Erie, more specifically Ridgeway and I am so sick of hearing how the Town never does anything to improve our streets or help our areas look nice. Now they are doing it and all you get is people whining because they are taking away what we always had. Get into the 21st century and spend your time making a successful business instead of being a PAIN in the lower extremities of forward thinking people!!!

  6. Pam Beam Douglas | Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Well put Patty!!!

  7. Fred | Nov 4, 2010 | Reply

    Mike, This is a good one, Thank you.. Grass is easy to replace, But Those tree’s are irreplaceable in our life time.. Per-Haps Others don’t mind someone coming onto there property and cutting down or destroying what is important to them – but others do…
    Buy the way – the gas company borer’s his line under the ground with out disturbing much.. The Water and storm, sewage and hydro are under road not sidewalks..

  8. Ron Leggett | Feb 24, 2011 | Reply

    I didn”t think the town staff made misteaks.

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