Since April, the Heintzes have been involved in what they described as a back-and-forth battle with the Town over what they say is a traffic safety issue.
At issue is an access road to the Heintz’ recently purchased acreage shared with the adjacent golf course. While the access between the golf course and former acreage owners has been shared for decades, the Heintzes have young children and say the danger from speeding traffic and site lines warrant entirely separate access to the golf course.
The Heintzes said a local dirt works company quoted $7,000 to build the separate entrance to the golf course, which the Heintzes maintain would address their concerns. However, the council commissioned a traffic study. The Heintzes say council only had one of the options analyzed, and that option would cost $12,500. This option would see the access 20 meters from them, and they maintain it doesn’t address many of their safety concerns and the safety issues noted in the study.
The report put forward two options. 1) Create a new access approach east of the acreage approach, approximately 20 meters to line up with the fairgrounds access approach. 2) Construct separate access off Grid Road 731 from the east of the golf course parking lot. The report says that through discussion with council at the time of the site visit, it was decided not to pursue option two because of cost, more roads to maintain, conflicts with holes 1 and 9 on the golf course and some golf patrons may continue to use the existing access road.
The Heintzes feel as though the Town’s reasons not to look further at the second option aren’t reasonable as a safety grant could pay for the costs. The estimated costs are higher than was originally quoted, and maintenance of the new entrance would be minimal as it would be just a short entrance into the golf courses parking lot. Brady is a regular patron at the golf course and is adamant that it would not interfere with holes 1 and 9. A well-placed post could stop patrons from continuing to use the existing access road.
During the delegation, the Heintzes said they were disappointed in the council’s decision and asked council several times to explain why they did not look at the second option put forward by the engineering company. Several councillors’ interactions with the Heintzes were terse as council sidestepped the question by saying they weren’t there to defend their decision but contradicted themselves by saying they wanted to be on the same page and communicate with them while not giving them an answer. The Heintzes were visibly frustrated by not having their question answered.
The Heintzes challenged the council’s explanation that the engineering company was the one to recommend the first option and pointed out the report didn’t say that.
After the Heintzes concluded their delegation and left chambers, Mayor Schapansky asked the council if there was any discussion on the issue. One councillor said it would be discussed as long-term planning, which meant it would be done in a closed session and not in public. When we asked the Town why the discussion was held in closed session and had other discussions been held in closed session, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jennifer Josephson said that to their recollection, previous discussions weren’t held in closed sessions.
The Town’s Code of Ethics bylaw addresses Transparency and Accountability. It says, “Members of council shall endeavour to conduct and convey council business and all their duties in an open and transparent manner, other than those discussion that are authorized to be dealt with in a confidential manner in closed session, so that stakeholders can view the process and rationale used to reach decisions and the reasons for taking certain actions…”
LMT reached out to the Town for a copy of the engineering report and asked why the discussion was held privately and what motions came after the meetings. Initially, Mayor Schapansky denied our access to the report saying it was part of long-term planning and denied access to the motion after the meeting. However, after he was reminded of their requirement under the Municipalities Act that reports presented to council must be available to the public and that motions cannot be made in closed sessions and must be made in public, the municipality released the information.
In the Town’s response to LMT, Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Josephson said the council had decided to maintain their earlier decision. That decision was that the Town would implement all the recommendations for both the speeding and shared approach issue and apply for a grant for costs related to the new approach, with the construction to be conducted by the spring of 2022.
The Heintzes received correspondence from the Town on the decision.
The Heintzes told LMT, “We are extremely disappointed with the town council’s response and how it has been handled overall. There have been some council members who have not been able to control their emotions in discussions regarding this issue, and we believe this has contributed to the decision by the council.
We wish the Town would put the golf course’s approach in front of the golf course (instead of in front of our property with ditch road access to the golf course). We do not accept their decision; however, we don’t know if there is any further recourse for us to change this decision. They have repeatedly said that it’s their decision to make and they can do what they want.
In the mayor’s letter, it says the decision was recommended by the engineer, which is untrue. There is no recommendation in the report saying that whatsoever. It says option 2 (the option we would like) was not pursued after discussion with the council. ‘Through discussion with Council at the time of the site visit it was decided not to continue to pursue Option 2’. It’s cowardice to place the blame on Walker when it clearly does not say that is what they recommend. It actually even says this in the report about the option they are going with, “Is an atypical property access and roadway and is not optimal with regards to traffic movement and visibility.” When originally discussed, a local dirt works company quoted $7000 for their own entrance on the east side of the golf course parking lot, now it’s costing $12,500, and it’s still in front of our place and still doesn’t address many of the safety concerns, which is explicitly noted by Walker in the report.
How would anyone like it if an approach to another property was in front of their place instead of the other property?”
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times