The end of Underwood Drive is a bit of a mess. There’s a set of concrete blocks, signage, a large metal gate and a partially intact wooden fence.
On one side, an established, quiet neighbourhood street — Underwood Drive. The other, newly built homes and cleared land ready to be developed.
This property is probably the closest thing there is to a tangible border between the Town of Windsor and the Municipality of West Hants. You can’t miss it.
On June 30 an unknown person or persons removed the wooden fence, according to Windsor’s chief administrative officer Louis Coutinho.
“We were advised that some people were unlawfully on town property with a chainsaw destroying the property,” Coutinho said. “As the town’s administrator, I advised council of the action we would take and proceeded to have the street closed with a more permanent barrier.”
Concrete blocks have since been put in place.
Town council officially closed off the end of the street in September 2015 after years of arguing between Windsor and West Hants politicians.
“The RCMP are investigating and are in possession of videos taken by certain people who provided evidence to the town of these actions,” Coutinho added. “They will take any appropriate action when and if necessary.”
Andrew Dawson, who lives on Underwood Drive, said he was away when the gate was removed, but said he’s glad the road remains closed.
“There was a study and public meetings, where we were told there was no plan to tear down the barrier and there’s been a constant controversy around this,” Dawson said.
“We don’t have a problem with development or with expansion, but this street as it is right now can’t handle any more traffic.”
Dawson pointed to several houses that have children living in them, saying the lack of sidewalks would make connecting Underwood Drive to Edward Drive hazardous for residents.
The Municipality of West Hants installed an emergency access gate, on the Edward Drive side, after councillors said they wanted emergency vehicles, such as ambulances and firetrucks to have better access to the nearby Payzant Drive, which is where Avon View High School and the Hants Community Hospital are located.
However, residents have expressed concerns that opening the road to emergency vehicles could eventually lead to a permanent connection, meaning more traffic coming down Underwood Drive.
“This road can’t handle the extra flow, but if they do something with the infrastructure and fix everything up, maybe?” he said. “Until that happens, leave it closed.”
Dawson said he’d like to see Edward Drive or another street in The Crossing development connect to Cole Drive, near the Super 8 Hotel and Atlantic Super Store.
That is also the preferred model in the joint future roads planned, signed off on by the town and municipality approximately five years ago.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian said the municipality was not responsible for the removal of the wooden fence, as it was on town property.
“I’m not sure who did that or why,” Zebian said.
“We’ve been very vocal about our stance, we believe it should be an emergency exit,” he continued.
“We’re in a period where we’re breaking down walls, amalgamating and trying to remove those borders. It’s a little disappointing to see concrete barriers go up,” he added.
Zebian said he hopes the issue can be resolved once a new regional council takes over on April 1, 2020.
“It’s about safety at the end of the day,” he said. “West Hants is growing, Windsor is growing, and the more ease of access we can get in and out of the hospital and high school the better.”
Mitch Brison, the president of New Valley Homes and developer of The Crossing, has been a vocal opponent to blocking access to Underwood Drive, saying it doesn’t make sense to have streets with one way in and one way out.
“It’s just one more sign of the town putting up road blocks to growth, development and safety,” Brison said.
“It’s about emergency access. If this was anywhere else that road would be open,” he added.
“God forbid if something happens, if someone has a stroke or a heart attack.”
On Feb. 26 of this year, Windsor town council requested a dialogue with the West Hants council to discuss a permanent solution to the border issue, for example, finding a second access.
Zebian, concurred that a second permanent access was required in a letter to the town, adding that senior staff of both municipalities should meet to work this out.
That is ongoing, Coutinho said.
“This is an unfortunate incident that will not deter the goodwill of our two councils from arriving at a permanent solution,” Coutinho said.