On March 7, the Town of Tillsonburg's Operation Services delivered notices to residents on Baldwin Street that Town Council "will be considering" two changes to Baldwin Street between Quarter Town Line and Broadway at its April 9th regular council meeting.
At Monday's meeting, attended by 100-plus residents, overflowing from the second-floor Council Chambers into the hallway (chairs were provided, more were needed), Council made its decision more than 90 minutes later after hearing from 10 delegation representatives, asking questions, and some discussion and comments.
Delegates, including John Gilvesy, James Morgan, Bob Muir, Jim Calvert and Vicki Watson, Tony Pleli, Brian Smith, Mike Cole, and Carlton Ross made their presentations in a concise and sometimes passionate manner, primarily citing safety concerns as well as objections to increased pollution and noise on Baldwin Street.
They had petitions with more than 700 signatures, noted by Calvert, and documents that outlined 50-60 issues and concerns.
"I want to thank everyone for coming out here tonight," said Councillor Jim Hayes. "It's been great to see all your input and," adding with a smile, "you gave me a lot of stuff to read on the weekend."
A lifelong farmer and politician, as well as a long-time truck driver, Hayes said Baldwin Street presents more than just a difficult corner to negotiate at Broadway.
"When I read that report I actually drove down to Baldwin Street and Broadway... With a 53-foot trailer, you're not going to make that corner unless you crowd left into the left turning lane, then crank it back right, against the turning lane on Baldwin Street. So it's certainly not a good corner.
"I've trucked machinery all over Ontario... so you're always careful where you're going and don't get into a situation you can't get out of... and when you look at that corner, there is no way I'd want to attempt that.
"You've got the funeral home - there could be a funeral procession. You've got the kids near the park, you've got Hickory Hills access, the other park and more pedestrian traffic. I sat there one afternoon in my pickup truck a couple weeks ago and I couldn't believe how many cars travel down Baldwin Street now, and we know with the redevelopment there's going to be a lot more cars."
Several councillors recommended better signage and improved sign locations, which they expect will be addressed at an operational level.
"I want to thank Jim for saying everything, he did an awesome job," said Councillor Chris Rosehart, agreeing with Hayes. "And I'd like to thank the people for coming here tonight, and their concerns, and all the conversations on the phone and the visits - I appreciated it all. It was wonderful."
"I'm not in favour of a truck route on Baldwin," said Councillor Brian Stephenson, "and I think it's fair to say I've never been in favour of a truck route on Baldwin. But we were trying to solve a problem of people - 18-wheelers - pulling into Baldwin Place subdivision. That is not something we want.
"I think it's fair to say, with the resolution we have, it's not going to be a truck route," Stephenson added.
"I called a large trucking company that used to be in town that is now up by the 401, I talked to one of the guys who looks after putting out trucks. I asked him, 'If we put a truck route down Baldwin Street, would you use it?' He said 'Never. We would never use it. In our industry we want to avoid stops, turns and kids, as much as possible. He said 'You can do what you want, but we're not going to use it.'
"The new resolution tonight, solves the problem," said Stephenson. "If this gets passed... there will not be (heavy) trucks on Baldwin."
Councillor Penny Esseltine, who also thanked the visitors and delegates, noted that the recommendation to make Baldwin Street a heavy truck route came from a consultant's report.
"It wasn't initiated by Council thinking that this was a great idea," Esseltine stressed. "It was from a consultant's report... and from that we have to do due consideration of the report, and that's what we've done tonight, and we've got tremendous communication with this issue as well, so thank you very much.
"Trucks off Baldwin Street, it's just not something we would consider, I think," said Esseltine. "The report was about Quarter Town Line, and it was important to keep trucks off Quarter Town Line because of the school, and Baldwin Street seemed to be the location that they could go... but it's not a good idea at all.
"I appreciate the comments that people made about Baldwin Street, about the residential neighbourhood, and about the sidewalks... no shoulders... those are all things that we could look at with regards to Baldwin Street to upgrade it a bit - but not to upgrade it so much that we would ever consider putting trucks there."
"Councillor Hayes already referenced the need to prevents trucks from getting to that section," said Councillor Max Adam, "so I'm glad that the alternative resolution proposed tonight suggests shutting down Newell Road (to heavy trucks) because that's shutting down the source of trucks coming from further southwest."
Deputy Mayor Dave Beres, who noted that all the issues had been covered - and covered well - pointed out what a 2x2 foot sign would look like, and noted the importance of enforcement.
Mayor Stephen Molnar stressed the importance of dialogue with the community.
"It's far better to have this dialogue tonight than to wake up months from now and suggest that you had a council that didn't listen or didn't reach out to the people. And you may look down the check points on this and say, 'Well that makes sense, and that makes sense... and who in their right mind would have ever thought that there was logic to doing it? I just encourage us all to remember that this is one part of a larger comprehensive thing, and that if the same passion and this same commitment and the same involvement that we've got here tonight is extended to the rest of the corridors and the rest of the community... then we're in pretty good hands. And it doesn't happen because of what happens up here every other Monday night, it happens with what goes on in a community on a regular basis..."
Council voted to accept the traffic consultant's recommendations (completed last fall in a Quarter Town Line Corridor Managment Study) 'as information'; to proceed with an all-way stop at the intersection of Baldwin Street and Quarter Town Line, which was favourably received by Monday's delegates when questioned by Council; and authorized Newell Road (between Pressey Line and Quarter Town Line), Baldwin Street and Quarter Town Line be recognized as prohibited to use as a heavy truck route. The motion carried without opposition, to applause from the audience.
To watch Monday's Council meeting in its entirety online, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHA5yciJ4GY.