STORIES BY MELODY FALCONER-POUNDER
On March 3, the proposed final public meeting on the Main Street Revitalization Project was held over ZOOM.
A Virtual Public Meeting regarding the Bayfield Main Street Revitalization project was held on March 3. (Photos by Melody Falconer-Pounder)
Kelly Vader, an Environmental planner with BM Ross and a Bayfield resident, who has been involved in the project for the past seven years, provided an update on the progress that had been made since the third public meeting held on Sept. 2, 2020.
Ron Koudys, of Ron Koudys Landscape Architects in London, was brought into the project last fall, since that time he has updated the concept plan. Vader noted that reviewing his proposals were at the heart of this public meeting.
She also explained that there had been a series of meetings in October 2020 with the Main Street business owners. The project team also had individual meetings with as many of the Main Street property owners as possible to go over the plans for immediately in front of their businesses to ensure they had no concerns with what was being proposed. In addition, a presentation had been made to the Bluewater Heritage Advisory Committee with a second presentation scheduled. The team had also met with the Huron County Accessibility Committee (HCAC) to review the plans.
Koudys noted, prior to sharing his design drawings for the updated Main Street landscape, how much he appreciated all of the comments that the team had received and the time that people took to provide the information.
“One of the things that really came out from the comments is that everyone really cherishes the unique character of Bayfield, and the Bayfield downtown, and I think the design team recognizes that and we are doing everything that we can to enhance and complement that unique character,” Koudys said.
He shared that a lot of the comments were directed at not reducing the width of the street.
“Main Street is not uniformly wide from end to end because of the way it was built over the years in some places spread out and in other areas narrower,” he said.
He acknowledged that as a result of the new design some of the street would be slightly narrower while other areas would be slightly wider.
He went on to say that Bayfield’s downtown is not a collection of buildings side by side with a linear sidewalk running in front of it.
“Bayfield’s downtown is a collection of unique, individual buildings set along the street so it creates a different kind of relationship between the building, the street itself and the sidewalk as people move through the space. So rather than try to emphasize the linearity of the street experience what we have developed are a series of unique experiences that draws the buildings out into the landscape and creates a series of nodes linked by sidewalks,” said Koudys.
The landscape architect then shared illustrated examples of the project’s approach along the corridor highlighting a few of the areas along the street.
He acknowledged the project includes establishment of an enhanced tree canopy and used the area in front of The Little Inn as an example. The plan includes protecting the Willow Tree at the corner by enhancing the landscaping around it as well as adding new trees. He explained that in order to allow for successful tree establishment there has to be enough root volume to allow for the trees to grow.
“Throughout the design we have placed trees in beds that will allow for the appropriate volume,” he said.
In front of the Bayfield Archives and Bayfield Public Library the design allows for the creation of a central plaza. The pathway in front of the library will also include some bike racks and benches.
“Our intent here in this mid-block location is to create a gathering place. There is lots of activity and as a result we have increased the amount of pavement and how the space expresses itself at the street,” Koudys said.
Accessible parking spaces have been suggested in front of The Little Inn, Bayfield Library and The Black Dog Pub and Bistro. Currently there is one accessible space by the library. Koudys stated that the plan allows for paved accessible parking spaces while the remaining spaces would be gravel. More accessible spaces could be added if the need is determined. Simple pedestrian crosswalks have also been suggested in the area near the library and The Black Dog.
Koudys used the area in front of Hive to explain the use of “welcome mats”.
“We are creating a landscaped, paved surface that is reflective of the building’s architectural character. The stores change use, they come and go, but the buildings are the enduring aspect of the street and that is what is celebrated in the landscape. The welcome mats are connected down the street through sidewalks and we have been looking at a whole host of paving materials here. What we are recommending at this time is exposed aggregate which picks up on the character of the gravel that is there now but provides a paved surface that deals with the muddiness, and the tracking, and the snow shovelling,” Koudys said.
Following the landscape architect’s presentation, Vader summarized the feedback from the property owners regarding the project.
“They were generally very appreciative of the effort we made to seek their input and to give them an opportunity to look at the details specifically in front of their properties,” she said.
Vader noted that they liked the concept of sidewalks linking points of interest defined by welcome mats of different materials in front of their businesses. They liked the idea of exposed aggregate sidewalks as a compromise between plain concrete and stone dust as it is easier to maintain and would reduce the mud currently being tracked into buildings. They liked the proposed idea of two levels of lighting; pedestrian level lighting with separate fixtures on the street. The business owners did express concern about the reduced street width, the loss of parking spaces and the impact construction may have on their businesses especially after dealing with COVID.
Vader went on to explain that there are two components where council is seeking additional input from the public and that is related to the project extents.
“When this project started back in 2014 there wasn’t a specific scope as to where the project ended and started,” said Vader. “So, when we were finalizing the cost estimates recently we wanted to confirm where the project would end at each end of Main Street. So, for these two areas council has asked us to seek additional input.”
The first area in question is just north of Catherine Street. The current design would run to the north end of the Virtual High School. This extent would see the project include one more property to the north just beyond the limits of the former guest cottage that was once part of The Little Inn. The cost to do this would add approximately $33,000 to the budget for full road construction and sidewalks.
The second area being examined is the area from Charles Street to Chiniquy Street to include the shopping area established there. The current design plan ends at the south limit of Main Street. To extend the streetscape along Charles, including sidewalks and road resurfacing, would add approximately $52,000 to the budget.
Dale Erb, engineer with BM Ross, shared that the total cost estimate for the project, including tax, is $2,386,000. This estimate does not include costs to fully bury the hydro or extend the project north beyond the Virtual High School or west along Charles Street. The hydro costs included only allow for the burial of the hydro services across the street from the East side. The work included in this estimate also includes: storm drainage and underground work, road work, sidewalks, lighting, boulevards and landscaping.
“Historical quotes for the fully buried hydro are now out of date because they go back to 2015,” said Erb. “Back then it was about half a million dollars or more. So, at the end of the day with the fully buried hydro, again this is an old estimate, and the extent of the limits on Charles and Main, should a decision be made to go that way, we could be looking at a cost closer to $3 million...”
Vader summarized the project’s next steps. A summary of comments collected from public input will be presented to council so that they can confirm proposed design elements thus allowing for the completion of the final design and preparations to tender the project for construction. Timing for construction will be dependent on contractor availability, decisions related to final design elements as well as receipt of provincial approvals.
Burying the hydro emerges as public priority for project
The dialogue continued regarding the revitalization of Bayfield’s Main Street during a Virtual Public Meeting held on March 3. Approximately 20 people registered to comment on the project or ask questions of the team on the most recent conceptualization of the project.
Dave Kester, manager of Public Works with the Municipality of Bluewater, chaired the meeting.
Kester reminded everyone that the reasons behind the revitalization were the need to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 (AODA), the need to comply with minimum maintainance standards and the need to fix the ongoing storm-water drainage issues that have plagued the street for many years.
Lawrence Elliott was the first of the public to comment. A number of his concerns were echoed by those who followed him. Many people felt that the plan had grown too grand in scope and should be simplified, with the fixing of the drainage issues and the complete burying of the hydro along the street emerging as priorities.
Elliott said, “It is all about tourism on Main Street and we agree with that because that adds to the tax base – to me it seems there is a division between people and I believe personally that, that is a complete misunderstanding. I don’t believe there isn’t anyone who is opposed to cleaning up what I experienced this past weekend, what is literally a Bog on Main Street and I understand that, I walk it every day, almost, and it is horrible and I am sympathetic to that for the property owners and the merchants, whether they be actual owners and tax payers or not, they do pay rent.
According to Elliott, there is an absolute consensus between both the business community and the residents of the village, to bury the hydro lines “because it makes no sense whatsoever to proceed without getting them buried.”
He went on to say that people overwhelmingly are opposed to crosswalks and curbs, although some agree to drive over curbs, and that everyone wants to grow a new tree canopy with mature trees and invest in that.
“No one argues that we should not fix the drainage. It is recognized that the poorly thought out, flawed engineering that went into the roadway in the first place is the overall cause of all the drainage problems, it’s not the sidewalks, it’s not the pathways. The crux of the problem is the drainage and that is being addressed,” said Elliott. “There is an unique opportunity for council here to do the right thing, and in the process please everyone, that is very unusual, but I think everybody can be pleased if more thought goes into it and it’s not stamping out some urban design.”
Toward the end of the meeting Kester provided some insight as to the challenges being faced by the team with regards to the project.
“The challenges of trying to incorporate the AODA components, alongside with the minimum maintainance standards and also trying to get the drainage, a lot of those pieces all go hand in hand with one another…that’s not to say that there can’t be modifications made to it but it becomes very challenging or difficult to actually remove some feature completely because we are trying to ensure we are able to achieve those things that we’re obligated to achieve through the design as well,” said Kester. “We are trying to make those best efforts, modify things in a way that are representative of the comments that we are getting for feedback, but still being able to achieve what we’re obligated to achieve as far as accessibility is concerned, as far as maintainance standards are concerned for snow removal, water and things like that. This is a little bit of the challenge that we are trying to deal with here.
“Again, I appreciate that there are members of the public that are providing those comments and we are going to do our best to address as many of these comments as we possibly can to incorporate them into a design that is ultimately functional, esthetic and holding within the character that the feel is today.”
Three members of Bluewater Council were present at the Virtual Public Meeting that ran for just over three hours. Bayfield Ward Councilor Bill Whetstone, Stanley East Ward Councilor Peter Walden and Mayor Paul Klopp.
The meeting concluded with comments from the Mayor.
“You need to have a lot of discussion to get focused. I definitely feel that I have gotten focused on what is needed. I have been reading all the letters that have come in. What are our next steps? We await a report to come back that reflects what we’ve been hearing and then we’re also going to get the hydro cost down to what it is and then we can come back. And the key word is we will be coming back to discuss. This isn’t going to be, oh it comes to council and it is voted on. That was not our intent, our intent was to keep moving things along,” said Klopp. “It has become loud and clear that Bayfield wants the hydro lines buried and it has been stated that we will come forward with some ideas on how that can happen.
“And then, of course, the main thing is will you and us together be satisfied with a plan and that is what we are still aiming to do and if it takes a little longer than it’s going to take a little longer. We are going to get the drainage issue fixed. that is number one. but we sure would like to dovetail the whole thing all together but it is all of us working together.”
One reason for the project is the need to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005 (AODA). Municipalities were given to Jan. 1, 2016 to do so.
Final design recomMendations
Part of the presentation at the public meeting was given to sharing the team's recommendations for the final design of the project. Here is a breakdown of the highlights:
Dale Erb, an engineer with BM Ross, noted that there have been some questions raised about the style of curbs being proposed. He wished to clarify that there are two styles being proposed: drive over curbs and barrier curbs.
According to Erb, drive over curbs would be used to access parking areas and to define the edge of the new roadway. As the name implies it allows vehicles to drive over top to access the new parking. This style of curb can be found in some of the newer developments at the south side of the village, the Fawn Creek development being one example.
Barrier curbs are very similar in height to the parking blocks that are placed every year along Main Street and they will be used along the edge of the boulevard between the vehicles and the businesses.
“The barrier curb prevents vehicles from advancing on to the new boulevard and pathway areas thereby protecting the pedestrians. It also will allow the boulevard grading to provide some flexibility to better match the building entrances allowing compliance with the accessibility component that we are striving to meet,” said Erb. “Concrete is the preferred product for this purpose largely because it can withstand being beaten up by snow plows, vehicle tires and de-icing materials.”
Erb noted that comments were received from the public relating to the stark nature of the new concrete and consideration is being given to tinting the concrete to reduce glare.
“Some (people) are good with transitioning away from the traditional gravel walkways while others feel that the existing gravel material ads to the uniqueness of the Main Street experience and at the end of the day there are pros and cons to both viewpoints,” Erb said. “We have spent a lot of time over the years, since the end of 2013, debating this before landing on a hard surface option for the sidewalk. Probably the biggest reason for transitioning away from the existing gravel relates to the inability to properly maintain the gravel during heavy rain or winter conditions and the instability that can occur during those times. One of the key considerations is also accessibility.”
Erb then explained, that exposed aggregate concrete is the material being proposed for the sidewalks between the welcome mats.
According to Erb, exposed aggregate is less stark than the finish of a normal concrete sidewalk but it would still provide longevity in maintainance and fulfill accessibility aspects.
The proposed sidewalk width would be 2.2M (7.2 ft) with wider areas in some locations. He noted that standard sidewalk width is 1.5M (5 ft). Efforts would also be made to match with business entrance elevations where feasible to help with accessibility needs.
The welcome mats are the defined areas in front of the businesses that would be formed from a combination of surface treatments specific to each space including, unit pavers and different concrete treatments.
“The welcome mats are really formed in the response to the architecture of the buildings itself, a brick building with red brick, for example, the stone detail would be the inspiration for what the welcome mat might look like,” explained Landscape Architect, Ron Koudys. “I know in front of The Little Inn, for another example, they have had some pavement already installed using natural flagstone, that could be an option…the idea is to promote uniqueness in the character of each of the buildings as people move along the street so it doesn’t look like a conventional downtown with a long linear ribbon of sidewalk.”
Existing benches will be used in many locations. In areas where larger gathering areas have been proposed additional seating options are being suggested.
“In order to complement the uniqueness of the individual locations we would seek to use complementary furniture at the same time,” Koudys said.
Two lighting zones are being proposed for the revitalization: street lighting and pedestrian accent lighting.
“We looked for a lighting style which was complementary to the heritage style that is there now. There really isn’t anything that works efficiently that would illuminate the street properly but we did find a light with a similar character,” said Koudys. “And we did find a smaller light fixture that would be suitable for pedestrian level so what we are proposing is a nod to the heritage on the street in obtaining the character but efficiency of a modern light and then in strategic locations especially in gathering places we would introduce a more rustic light that complements what has been there for many years.”
Rain gardens or infiltration basins are another aspect of the project that was presented at the public meeting. Kelly Vader, BM Ross Environmental planner, explained that these will be located at various locations along the corridor.
“They will be vegetated so they wouldn’t look like an infiltration basin it would look more like a landscaped area,” she said. “They do serve a very important purpose and that is to clean and filter the storm water runoff that is coming off the street. Surface water drainage would be directed to these areas either through curb cuts or through channelization. Once the water enters these areas it filters down through the plant material and the filter media and would be picked up through a drain pipe underneath and then down into the ground.”
Vader also explained that if the village were to get a big storm event the water would be directed to the storm sewer system but it would still go through this filtering media first to clean the storm water and take out some of the contaminants before it gets directed to the lake.
“These (gardens) do require some maintainance because you have to make sure that the entrances to these facilities don’t get blocked up with debris but they will result in an improved quality of storm water runoff before it gets to the lake,” said Vader.
The parking areas, with the exception of the three paved accessible parking spots, are to be gravel. As a result, there are several parking areas along Main Street that are currently paved that will be converted to gravel as part of the revitalization. According to Vader, this is to increase permeability and provide a cohesive and consistent look throughout the project.
With the wider boulevards permitted by the slight narrowing of the roadway width planting adjacent to some properties will be expanded. The initial planting of these areas would be completed as part of the project but ongoing maintainance of these areas would be undertaken by the adjacent property owners.
“Only new areas created would be planted not existing beds currently in place,” said Vader. “In our discussions with property owners a number of them have indicated that they plan to undertake additional upgrades on their own properties after the Main Street project is completed to try and match in better with the new streetscape.”
The start date for construction is dependent on discussions with Hydro One regarding the complete burying of the hydro lines. The team is waiting to hear back from Hydro One with a cost estimate.
Some aspects of construction could begin as early as Fall 2021 if a partial burial of hydro was the option chosen by council. Phase 1 would see the installation of storm sewers and possible road reconstruction extending into the fall, and subject to weather, through parts of the winter.
This work is dependent on approval from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
“We are waiting for approval from the Ministry of Environment for storm sewer piping and installation,” said Erb. “We hope to see that sometime this spring but until we receive the permit from the ministry the storm sewer work cannot legally proceed.”
Construction of the streetscape components, such as, concrete work and plantings, would start again in the spring of 2022. Work would be stopped from June to September 2022 to not impede the summer tourism season with work finishing in the fall of 2022 if needed.
Erb added, “To address concerns from business owners regarding access to businesses during construction we suggest that a communication strategy be developed to coordinate business access and keep everyone up to date on the status of the work. Tender documents can note that access to buildings must be maintained during construction.”
He explained that access can be provided at all times to businesses although there may be temporary restrictions during concrete pours and other work in front of entrances. The plan would be to have signage placed at the edges of Main Street confirming that businesses are open during construction.