You know how if you pull a dandelion, even if you gouge a huge hole in your lawn, you never get the end of the root, and it’s always down there eager to grow again? Sometimes at Council tonight I felt like that’s what we are facing with the WSE — that there is no way to be rid of it. A consistent majority of Council is dedicated to eradicating it from city plans. They hear the public opposition to the road loud and clear and are trying to act on it. But it seems exceedingly difficult to get to the bottom of what procedural steps must be taken to get the WSE off the books. At one point tonight the Director of Engineering and the Director of Planning gave opposite answers about whether an Environmental Assessment (EA) update was necessary to cancel the WSE. It seems somehow impossible to get the WSE out of the centre of our attention, even in the “secondary plan” which does seem like a better tool than an EA. The fact remains that the Engineering Department has identified a traffic “problem” — one they admit is very marginal — and so even the secondary plan will have to be centred, it seems, around “solving” that “problem” even if it does address other social, environmental, and economic issues as well.
But I’ve buried the lead: Council tonight voted to proceed with a “secondary planning” process for the Old Industrial Lands (west of Montreal, south of Counter) and the Inner Harbour, but amended the motion to avoid implementing the staff’s other recommendation of an Environmental Assessment update for the Wellington Street Extension. Council also asked staff to bring the terms for a Request for Proposal (RFP) back to them before hiring a consultant to undertake the planning exercise.
It is good that we now have a land use planning process to evaluate the situation, and an opportunity to imagine the broader future of important parts of downtown. It is good that was have a council working really hard to sort all this stuff out. It is good that we still have an option to undertake an EA update if we decide we need one.
It is frustrating that the process is so long and still uncertain. But here’s hoping that other seeds fall into that dandelion hole, and that it rains so they can sprout and flourish.
— Laura Murray