Golden Lakebusiness owners want more consultation on intersection intersection

Golden Lake – Local business owners directly affected by the proposed changes to the Golden Lake intersection, which would see a cul-de-sac created by one business, cutting off highway access and the other business demolished to create a cul-de-sac, want to see more consultation and examination of the financial implications of the decision.

“We will have no access to Highway 60,” Cottage Cup/Boat House owner Amanda Welk said. “Come up with a positive solution for all of us, so it does not negatively affect us.”

Along with her husband, Donaven, and Dan Von der Hoeh, who owns the Golden Lake Variety/Gas Station across the street, she has concerns the financial impact of the current proposal has not been fully examined. These two businesses are the most directly affected by the preferred alternative with the realignment of the highway and the cul-de-sac. Under the proposal unveiled last Wednesday, her business would no longer have access to the highway and would be at the end of a cul-de-sac created when Kokomis Road is cut off to Highway 60.

The current proposal would see a cul-de-sac right in front of her business and the cul-de-sac would be located where the variety store/gas station is now.

They all attended the recent Public Information Centre in Golden Lake last Wednesday and were shocked to see not several options presented but one preferred alternative.

“This is their final draft and I was blindsided by this,” said Mr. Von der Hoeh. “In my opinion, the economic impact to the businesses is too much.

“Right now, they are going to buy me out,” he said. “My business will cease to exist, whether that is temporary or permanent.”

He noted he would be open to rebuilding, but he needs a site to do so and this needs to be a consideration. When he has discussed some possibilities of rebuilding in the near vicinity, he is told this could not occur because there cannot be a business with highway access so close to the intersection. However, this doesn’t make any sense to him because he already has a business with access to a highway right by an intersection. In order to be viable, the business needs to be accessible to the highway, he stressed.

Mr. Welk pointed out the economic impact of the decision has not been fully considered by the MTO.

“They have supposedly done an economic study but they did not ask for the gross numbers or net numbers of either of our businesses,” he said. “They talk about compensation, but they have not looked at the impact.”

The Welks are also concerned because instead of a straight buyout like the gas station has under this proposal, they will only see compensation when the impact of lost access to Highway 60 is seen, which might be a year or two later.

“They said they would look at the business a year later to see if we might be ‘eligible’ for compensation,” he noted.

Asking for compensation then and not knowing if any would be given is just too much uncertainty, the couple agreed.

Their business has grown tremendously since they purchased the Cottage Cup in the hamlet and relocated it to the existing spot in an old log building right by the intersection. With not only locals stopping by, it is also a busy place for tourists.

Mrs. Welk said so much of their business is built on through-traffic on Highway 60, she knows there will be a serious impact.

“Any tourist we serve which is going by on the way to Algonquin Park, if this happens, they will have no idea how to get to us,” she said, noting the access from the highway is crucial.

In fact, she doesn’t see the business as being on a cul-de-sac as presented in the proposal but rather on a dead-end road. She also wonders how the transports which bring supplies to the store regularly would be able to navigate that. Parking is the other issue. Right now, parking is extremely limited and any discussion they have had of having some parking on the MTO owned property adjacent to the highway has been rebuffed, she said.

Pedestrian access is also important and has been overlooked in the whole discussion. With pedestrians crossing both Kokomis, Lake Dore Road and Highway 60, it is very dangerous, she said.

Mr. Welk wonders about the possibility of contamination because of gas pumps in the area and also the impact of the wetland where the realigned Kokomis Road would go.

There is also a community economic impact since these businesses also employ local members of the community. In the two businesses about 20 people are employed, with around 10 being full-time, he said. These are factors which need to be considered, he stressed.

“Now, the next six years there is uncertainty in our business,” he said. “Should we put money into the building?”

Mr. Von der Hoeh noted all the businesses in the village core, which also includes the Pharmasave drug store, where some of the parking lot would be cut off to align with the changes on Lake Dore Road, work closely together and complement each other. He said the business owners all need to be consulted.

They are also all very cognizant something needs to be done. They see the traffic daily, hear the horns blowing with near misses and watch pedestrians trying to make their way across busy traffic.

Not Totally Opposed

However, neither the Welks nor Mr. Von der Hoeh are totally opposed to the plan but want more mitigation factored in, including the possibility of relocation assistance from the MTO. None of them want to close their businesses.

Mr. Von der Hoeh said he had been open to the possibility of having the variety store/garage torn down, but he needs a second location in which to rebuild. While he would not put in gas tanks again, he would keep his LCBO outlet and variety store which is very busy. Having the MTO work with him to find a nearby location with highway access is crucial to him. He does not want to go out of business. The current proposal doesn’t help him rebuild, he said.

“The economic impact is too big,” he said.

Likewise, the Welks would be open to a new location, but it also has to be in the village and with highway access, just like they have now.

“No one has come to say, ‘here is a plan’,” Mr. Welk said.

With their livelihoods at stake, they want things to slow down and more consultations to be held.

“There are too many unknowns,” he said. “We are in support if they give us commercial access on an approved relocation in the hamlet of Golden Lake.”

There is a precedent for this in other places where a highway has been realigned, he stressed.

The business owners also want to work more closely with the municipality to make sure their viewpoint is heard, they said. They hope members of council will reach out to them.

“We want to work together,” Mrs. Welk said. “We need to have all the stakeholders in the room, with the township and the First Nation.”

A few days after the PIC, they were still dealing with the information they received and processing it as the timeline of May 1 drew close for submitting comments.

“I know this was what they needed to choose,” admitted Mr. Welk. “I’ve done work with MTO building propane plants and they have to meet MTO guidelines. A year ago, when I saw the options, I knew they would pick this one.

“I struggle with how this affects the community and they have a lack of understanding of pedestrian access here,” he said. “It all feels very urban. It feels like they don’t have a rural ability to meet the needs of this society.”

Mrs. Welk said they have reached out to the Ottawa Valley Tourist Association (OVTA) for support in stating the importance the business has from a tourism perspective.

They also want to discuss the implications with partners at the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation (AOPFN), she said.

They are encouraging people in the community as well to reach out to share about the importance of access to these local businesses to the consultants. Comments are being received at until May 1.

“That is not a lot of time,” Mr. Welk added. “Just about 10 days.”

Pharmasave Parking

Part of the proposal is for the parking lot at the Golden Lake Pharmasave to be reduced to make for a better alignment of Lake Dore Road. However, owner Livia Vodenicar said there are still a lot of unknowns for her in terms of compensation and where she will find additional parking spots.

“They can’t say what percentage of the parking lot yet,” she said. “They say they will do what they can to make up the parking spots.”

However, one proposal she was given would be to place parking right over her existing septic tank. She wonders if there will be any assistance to relocate the septic and gain the necessary permissions.

“I don’t know if the MTO can get the approval for a new septic tank,” she said.

Parking is a big issue for her and she noted many people use her parking lot not only to park and walk across the road but as a short cut to avoid the intersection.

“How can there be a conversation about more parking in this area?” she questioned. “We really can use more parking in our community.”

Like the other business owners, she is hoping there will be a conversation with the municipality about the issue and especially more parking for the busy hub.

If the current proposal does go through, she wonders if it will create another problem of even more pedestrians walking across the highway to get to the Cottage Cup.

The pharmacy is also an increasingly busy place since its opening and she has also opened a home health care supply next door.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader