Residents living along the Veterans Memorial Parkway who have been putting up with high levels for the better part of two decades, will have to wait a little longer to get action from council.
And depending on what a staff report might suggest two months from now, they might be waiting until 2014 to get some relief.
During the council meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 29), councillors voted 9-6 to have staff report back to the Civic Works Committee with options for handling the problem of high noise levels along the parkway. A public participation meeting will also be scheduled.
It was just a week ago (Jan. 21) that the Civic Works Committee voted to accept the recommendation of Richmond Hill-based Valcoustics Canada — the consultant hired to measure sound levels in the backyards of the affected residences — to rebuild and expand the natural sound barrier in the area. The price to augment the existing sound-attenuating berm is estimated at $300,000 while constructing a 2.44-metre high fence on top of the existing barrier would cost $1.7 million.
Civic Works chair and Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen said the committee supported the recommendation of the experts, not just because it is the cheaper option, but because it “makes perfect sense” for the natural barrier to be used.
“It was abundantly clear from expert engineers in acoustics that the berm, by and large, works. It has some weak spots that need beefing up, but the berm is equal to or not better than, a wall,” Van Meerbergen said. “But there are some of us on this council that have it in our heads that somehow the wall is the Cadillac and the berm is the Chev. It’s just not the case.”
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong, who spoke out against the berm during committee discussions, did so again at council, expressing concern that the issue was a financial consideration. Calling the wall “the best possible solution,” Armstrong said it was a quality of life issue for residents living along the parkway.
Armstrong supported the referral back to staff, along with the setting of a public participation meeting, saying he was satisfied — for the time being — with the direction of council.
“I am satisfied as far as today goes. This is another opportunity for us to take a look at the issue, to have the committee look at it again. This time there will be public participation,” Armstrong said. “I suspect the community will come out and explain how their lives are changed by the noise and traffic. Hopefully the committee this time will understand their needs to be a wall.
Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill supported Armstrong’s position, saying some residents had been dealing with this issue for 20 years. For Polhill, the biggest issue is that even if the berm is the cheaper solution today, it won’t be in the long run with expansion of the parkway on the horizon.
“Two or three years ago we were shown plans for Veterans Memorial Parkway that was widened to six lanes with overpasses and all that sort of stuff. You might as well do it (build the wall) now, get it over with. It is going to be needed when it is six lanes somewhere down the road. You are going to need it then, so you might as well look at doing it now.”
Mayor Joe Fontana, along with members of staff, said on several occasions throughout the debate that any work was unlikely to begin before 2014 at the earliest.
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