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Armit Avenue sidewalk removal questioned again

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After reaffirming last month to go ahead with the removal of a sidewalk on the east side of Armit Avenue between Front Street and Church Street, town council heard a presentation from an Armit Avenue resident Monday night asking it to explain that decision and review the decision-making process.

Barb Kircher submitted a letter in support of maintaining the sidewalk and spoke to council about its decision, which it first made at the Sept. 12 meeting and then discussed again at its Oct. 11 meeting after receiving a letter from Dr. Cam Moorhouse.

“My question is to understand the criteria used and to understand the decision-making process in place,” Kircher noted.

She did concede she is aware council previously has explained that the sidewalk is broken up where trees have grown up under it, one or more trees would have to removed if the sidewalk were to be replaced, and it’s possible people would be more concerned about losing the trees than losing the sidewalk.

But Kircher said she’s not sure if that’s altogether accurate, and wondered if the town had asked for any public input into the decision to remove the sidewalk.

Kircher said she has several reasons to question the removal of the sidewalk, including that the criteria used may be “unsubstantiated and inconclusive.”

For example, she disagreed if the town feels it is a “low-volume” sidewalk. She has lived at her residence at 216 Armit Ave. for 22 years and has monitored increased pedestrian traffic along the east sidewalk over the past five years.

She felt it’s a well-used path for area residents, who live on Armit Avenue, at the Riverwalk Condominiums, and at Front Street Manor, to get to the riverfront, as well as Safeway and the downtown area, adding most walkers prefer the “sunny side” of the street (which is warmer) and has a boulevard (for pets), as opposed to the west side.

If the sidewalk was removed, Kircher felt the public would continue to use that side of the street anyway and wear a path on the grass.

Kircher also asserted Armit Avenue frequently is utilized as an emergency route, and maintaining the sidewalk on both sides of the street will ensure the roadway will remain free of traffic and maintain safety for all residents.

As well, Kircher’s residence is a designated heritage house as identified on a map indicating a town walking tour. It is listed as a point of interest, and is promoted by the town for visitors and residents alike.

Her home was a residence of a former mayor and without sidewalks bordering the property, walking access is limited. On occasion, visitors have requested tours of her home and appreciate its historic value.

For many years, the landscaping (hedges and entranceway) has been maintained to reflect its Armit Avenue address and access to the home would be greatly impacted by sidewalk removal.

Sidewalk removal also may have future impact on the property value of homes on that block, Kircher noted.

Meanwhile, as a health-oriented community member, Kircher said she promotes active lifestyles for all ages and applauds those who utilize this sidewalk to access the downtown area and Safeway.

With an aging community, she has noticed an increase in the number of people with assistive mobile equipment who access the route.

As well, the waterfront area supports active lifestyles for all community residents, and is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Kircher argued some residents living within the Armit Avenue area are Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. employees and medical students. As such, it would be beneficial for them to have a safe walking route to the health-care facilities and the waterfront, and support residency in the area.

Finally, Kircher said without sidewalks, access to homes for mail delivery and emergency services will be affected.

Service delivery will have to utilize boulevards and lawns, thereby creating additional expenses for maintenance.

“Why I am here tonight is to request that this decision possibly be looked at again, and have some input by the residents that are affected,” said Kircher, adding she supports Dr. Moorhouse’s previous letter to council asking it to save the sidewalk.

Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft clarified that Dr. Moorhouse, after receiving a response from the town, was in agreement with the decision to remove the sidewalk.

Still, council referred the matter to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation, noting Kircher will be invited to attend the meeting so the committee will be able to further explain its rationale.

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