WENTWORTH CREEK, N.S. — West Hants council is looking to install an emergency access gate in an area that straddles the Windsor and West Hants boundary line — and they’re doing so with, or without, Windsor’s blessing.
West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian broached the subject Nov. 27 at the committee of the whole meeting. He said it was high time the situation was dealt with.
“It’s just a sore spot in our area and I’d like to see it corrected and so would our residents,” said Zebian.
The area in question is a small strip of land located between the seniors retirement community in Garlands Crossing and the Underwood Drive subdivision in Windsor.
The seniors community, known as The Crossing, has one way in and one way out. Residents there are concerned that if the road ever becomes blocked and there’s an emergency, they won’t be able to leave. This could have fatal consequences.
Meanwhile, Underwood Drive residents contend that they don’t want their subdivision opened up to traffic. Underwood Drive is located off of Payzant Drive (another road that only has one way in and one way out), between the Hants Community Hospital and Avon View High School.
This has been an ongoing dispute for several years, which came to a head in 2015 when the Town of Windsor made Underwood Road a cul-du-sac and built a wooden fence to prevent people from crossing the imaginary boundary line.
In a town report prepared on the subject, it was noted “The integrity of residential streets in the Town of Windsor must be protected from unplanned intrusion related to uncoordinated and poor planning practices by developers and others.”
Zebian said he wants to see the emergency access gate installed by the end of January 2019.
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Councillors debate merit
Coun. Jennifer Daniels said while she appreciated the gesture, she didn’t understand why it needed to be done before the municipal units consolidate.
“There has not been... anything that’s happened that’s hindered life and safety at this point. I would like to see it resolved mutually. Again, I just don’t see why this couldn’t be looked after (come) April 1, 2020,” said Daniels, noting that there is already a recognized emergency action plan in place for that area.
Council then cited examples of incidents that occurred in or near The Crossing over the past year that could have had devastating consequences.
On March 4, a motor vehicle accident near the entrance of The Crossing caused the road to be blocked to traffic while the scene was cleaned up. The residents quickly realized that if there was a medical emergency, for example, they would have to wait for help.
“I appreciate that we have not yet had an incident or issue but the fact is, the incorporation of our consolidated units will not take place until April 1, 2020,” said Coun. Tanya Leopold, who said she fully supported the warden’s motion.
On Sept. 20, there was a gun scare at Avon View High School. Leopold said as a parent, she wanted to know what would happen if the school needed to be evacuated and there was only one road in and out.
“Let’s put something there. I don’t want to wait until April 2020,” said Leopold. “I wanted this in my very first month as councillor and I’m not a volunteer firefighter, a first responder or a REMO committee member, but I’m a parent, like many others, that wants some kind of assurance that there is a method to evacuating students or accessing them.”
Coun. Randy Hussey has long been an advocate for the emergency gate. He’s brought up the subject several times at previous council meetings only to have the idea met with opposition from Windsor.
“This is a safety issue. It’s been a safety issue for years. It makes absolutely no sense to have this road blocked with a permanent barricade,” said Hussey, noting the other possible emergency access site, which is located behind the school and is blocked off by a cement partition, is not an ideal set up.
“This is the only viable solution. I will call on the Town of Windsor now to do the right thing and take down the fence once we pass this motion.”
Daniels asked what would happen if Windsor retaliates.
“My question is, if we put a gate up on the West Hants side, what happens when Windsor digs a trench? Is it worth it?” she asked.
For Leopold, she just wants to see the gate installed.
“I’m responsible as a councillor to residents of West Hants. If Windsor wants to dig a trench before we consolidate, dig it,” she said. “I did my part.”
Councillors voted 8-2 in favour of recommending to council that they approve installing the gate by the end of January 2019, with funding coming from the operating reserves. This recommendation will be brought forward Dec. 11 for a formal vote.
Further, they will provide keys to the appropriate emergency or public safety providers to use the gate.
Additionally, they plan to write a letter to the Town of Windsor and Hants West MLA Chuck Porter advising them of council’s pending action.