Community Association requesting “meaningful consultation” on plans for Burritts Rapids

·4 min read

Consulting firm, WSP, made a presentation to council at the meeting of January 26, outlining the focus and priorities for the Burritts Rapids Conceptual Design Plan.

In 2015, North Grenville alerted the residents of Burritts Rapids about plans to upgrade the infrastructure in the hamlet. After learning more about what the municipality was planning, the Burritts Rapids Community Association (BRCA) put a stop to it because, although the plans fixed some of the issues, they did not fit into the overall look and feel of the historic hamlet. “It was a short term, knee jerk reaction,” remembers Inge Vangemeren, long-time Burritts Rapids resident and Chair of the BRCA.

The BRCA has been working hard since 2015 to put together a Hamlet Design Plan (HDP) that would upgrade the existing infrastructure while still maintaining the charm of the hamlet. “Burritts Rapids is old enough now that it kind of deserves a bit of a reset,” Inge says. “We don’t expect everything to get fixed at once. That’s ridiculous. But let’s at least make sure, if we have a big plan, that we know each time they do come along to put in, call it a ‘band aid’, that the band aid fits with the long-term plan.”

The completed HDP was presented to a sub-set of council and staff on February 25, 2020. The BRCA had planned to make a more formal presentation to council to ask for their support, however, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted that plan.

WSP was hired later in 2020 to take all the information that had been gathered by the municipality and the BRCA over the years and create a Conceptual Design Plan and Community Design Guidelines which will address capital improvement needs. “It’s gotten us here to this point to try and take all that information, and those visions, to come up with something that can both meet the requirements from an operational side, but as well as from the community side,” Kimberly Hunton of WSP told council.

While taking into consideration the modernization of infrastructure in Burritts Rapids, WSP will also be aiming to implement the community vision for the hamlet, as outlined in North Grenville’s Official Plan. This includes maintaining small village characteristics (narrow streets with minimal asphalt, increased green spaces and trees), preserving the hamlet’s heritage through streetscaping and landscaping, minimizing noise, traffic volumes/speeds, and light pollution, and providing a safe environment for residents of all ages to walk and drive in the community.

WSP has just finished the information-gathering stage of the process, having consulted with the BRCA, and agencies like Parks Canada, the City of Ottawa, and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. Stakeholders provided input on maintaining roadway cross sections, controlling traffic volumes and speeds, improving infrastructure for active transportation, stormwater management, winter and road maintenance, emergency services, street lighting, parking at Henry Street beach, the use of the Parks Canada swing bridge, and parking at the Tip-to-Tip trail.

Representatives from the BRCA were at the meeting for WSP’s delegation and also made a presentation of their own. They feel that meaningful consultation with the community will be integral as the conceptual design moves forward. “We certainly felt that need to do that with the community ourselves. We felt that pressure and responsibility,” said Bart Bilmer of the BRCA. “But we think it is also important and it’s also meaningful with North Grenville, whether it’s with Public Works or the Planning Department, or with other stakeholders.”

WSP has now completed their information gathering stage and will proceed with preparing the Draft Conceptual Design Plans, which will be presented to stakeholders and the public in March. There is currently no time scheduled in the project contract for further consultation before the Draft Conceptual Design Plan is complete. The final plan and report is due to be presented to council in May, 2021.

The BRCA’s main concern is that they feel they have been completely excluded from the process. “We had to beg and plead for the association to be part of the stakeholders meeting,” Inge says. “And now we are desperately looking to make sure that the next phase, where they’re going to come back with some layout options, has some meaningful consultation.”

The BRCA would be happy with WSP’s plan of presenting the draft plan to stakeholders and the public in March, as long as they are afforded the time to ask questions and have input into the final design. “We are just concerned, because they are not forthcoming at this moment about what that process is going to look like,” Inge says.

Councillor John Barclay said that, while he understands the BRCA’s anxiety in turning over the process to WSP, he believes this is an exciting time, as they are at a turning point in actually being able to implement some of the hard work and planning that has been ongoing for years. “I just want to reflect back what I have heard from the community. I understand their anxiety going forward, but we have to cross at this point and start turning it into a reality,” he said.

Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times