Joel Perreault is looking forward to a “good night's sleep all summer long.”
It only took twelve years.
After 40 minutes of debate and arguments from both sides, a 6-3 vote from city council sealed the fate of the hotly-contested walkway between 3065 and 3067 Sherman Dr. A third reading of the same bylaw, which would have closed the path once and for all, fell short at a final vote late last month.
The contentious path found its way under the microscope for the fourth time since 2006 earlier this year, when a request for its closure was brought forward in a motion by Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards. This was spurred in part due to a break-in at Perreault’s home adjacent to the pathway Dec. 16. Footprints in the snow found by police indicated the culprit used the path to break in.
Edwards argued passionately in favour of Perreault and nearly 50 others who signed a petition in favour of closing the path.
“This discussion comes down to convenience versus the safety and peace of a family and children,” Edwards said. “What this break-in did, which impacted me the most: there are three young children in the Perreault residence that are traumatized.”
According to agenda documents, several recent calls for police services were made relating to the path, ranging from mischief to the break-and-enter. Perreault has said that number was low, as there were a number of times he did not bother to call the police and simply let his dog outside to shoo away the problem. Edwards also took aim at those who have called Perreault’s request to close the path a land grab.
“This is not about property. This is about peace in the evening,” he said.
Perreault himself again took to the podium and repeated the points he argued before city council on several previous occasions.
“Honestly, why would anyone spend so much time and effort, repeated applications, only to be told that these are all fabricated stories,” he said.
If the city simply wanted to put up a fence at both ends and not sell the land to the abutting neighbours, Perreault said he would be fine with that outcome. The neighbour on the other side, he added, has even offered to buy all the land if it would help silence the naysayers.
“I care about my community and my neighbours,” he said. “The application would not apply if I thought for one moment [closing] this walkway would have a large detrimental effect.”
The impact to the community has been a key point for many opposed. Those who spoke Monday night or penned letters in opposition argued the path connects the community and offers an easy way for families to access the park.
Julie McIntosh and her family have lived on Dent Cres. for 18 years. She said the walkway is part of a network that joined other neighbourhoods to theirs and allowed people to travel safely, away from busy streets. She said her son uses up to six similar pathways to get to school in the morning. While she said the break-and-enter was a “terrible invasion of privacy," McIntosh said the walkway was open and clearly visible and said blame could not be assigned the path.
“Criminal activity in our neighbourhood is extremely low,” she said. “There is no evidence of the disturbances that are alleged to be occurring in this walkway.”
She said no one else, to her knowledge, has reported criminal activity along the path or in Dent Park. McIntosh said closing down a walkway without examining other options was drastic, expressed discontent over the simplicity of the closure process and suggested a motion sensitive light instead.
Her ideas were shared by Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp, who proposed stepping back and examining other options. Taxpayer dollars were used to build the path, Lennox-Zepp said, which would be wasted ripping it up.
Mayor Greg Dionne, who had previously argued in favour of the closure, voted against the decision, as did Lennox-Zepp and Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky.
“It is a hard decision to make,” Dionne said. “I have been on both sides. This is a hard one.”
Despite the stiff opposition, Perreault said unless you live beside a walkway, you cannot fully appreciate all the incidents and trouble a person must endure.
“The right decision was made today," he said as he left the meeting.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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