Road with no name

De­bate with no end in sight

The Compass - - OPINION -

Ev­ery road must come to an end, even those with no names.

But there seems to be no end in sight to the con­tro­versy over a name­less road, which runs par­al­lel to Colum­bus Drive through Car­bon­ear.

Last week coun­cil made yet an­other con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion which could come back to haunt them.

In its wis­dom, or lack thereof, coun­cil has de­cided to grade the name­less road. The move ef­fec­tively means the town is now grad­ing and main­tain­ing a road, which it does not rec­og­nize as a town road.

The mo­tion to grade the name­less road squeaked through by the slimmest of mar­gins, and not with­out some de­bate.

Be f o r e vot­ing against the mo­tion, deputy mayor Ches Ash raised some le­git­i­mate con­cerns.

Ash sug­gested cor­rectly the mo­tion is “con­trary to a mo­tion coun­cil passed ear­lier this year when we said we did not con­sider it to be a town road.”

Re­mind­ing coun­cil the road was to be used for emer­gency ac­cess (to Bunker Hill) dur­ing win­ter con­di­tions only, Ash ques­tioned coun­cil’s author­ity to grade a road that lies partly un­der pro­vin­cial ju­ris­dic­tion. Part of the name­less road lies within the road reser­va­tion for Colum­bus Drive, which comes un­der the prov­ince.

Mayor Sam Slade re­minded coun­cil the town grades Line Road, Fox Farm Road and Gun­ners Pond Road once a year, and saw no rea­son the same couldn’t be done for the name­less ser­vice road.

The big dis­tinc­tion Ash saw be­tween those roads and the name­less road is that they are rec­og­nized by the town as pub­lic roads, while the name­less road is “ not a road,” ac­cord­ing to the town’s own ear­lier mo­tion.

Un­der those cir­cum­stances, Ash said: “I don’t know if we even have the author­ity to grade it.”

Ques­tion: Does coun­cil know if it has the author­ity to main­tain a road over which it does not have full ju­ris­dic­tion, any more than it would have the right to main­tain any other pro­vin­cial road which runs through the town?

If it does, any con­fir­ma­tion of its author­ity to main­tain the road was con­spic­u­ous by its ab­sence at last week’s meet­ing.

By co­in­ci­dence, Mayor Sam Slade hap­pens to re­side at the top of Bunker Hill, con­spic­u­ously near the west end of the name­less road.

Through­out the lengthy and pro­tracted de­bate over the Brad­burys’ ap­pli­ca­tion to build a home on name­less road - the is­sue which first brought the road into pub­lic fo­cus - ev­ery time the is­sue was raised, mayor Slade would leave the coun­cil cham­bers be­cause of a con­flict of in­ter­est, per­ceived or oth­er­wise.

That prac­tice changed last De­cem­ber when, for the first time since the de­bate over the name­less road first sur­faced, Mayor Slade re­mained in the cham­bers, af­ter his fel­low coun­cil­lors agreed he was not in any con­flict of in­ter­est just be­cause he hap­pens to live near the end of the name­less ser­vice road.

“If there was a ma­jor up­grade of that road be­ing con­sid­ered, maybe you would be (in con­flict),” Coun. David Kennedy was quoted as say­ing at the time. “But this is only snow clear­ing, a ser­vice pro­vided to ev­ery cit­i­zen.”

Fair enough, but snow clear­ing in win­ter and grad­ing in sum­mer are two dif­fer­ent an­i­mals.

In giv­ing the green light to coun­cil to re­sume snow­clear­ing op­er­a­tions early in the new year, trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged dis­con­tin­u­ing such a ser­vice “ has been per­ceived as com­pro­mis­ing emer­gency and snow­clear­ing ac­cess to the steep sec­tions of Bunker Hill.

“In light of the town’s stated in­ten­tion to pur­sue a more per­ma­nent so­lu­tion in the near fu­ture, the depart­ment views this as an ac­cept­able short term so­lu­tion for the re­main­der of this win­ter sea­son.”

The sign coun­cil it­self erected at the east en­trance to name­less road at the top of English Hill makes its use crys­tal clear: NOT A PUB­LIC ROAD ROAD MINIMIALLY MAIN­TAINED FOR EMER­GENCY USE ONLY NON-EMER­GENCY USE PRO­HIB­ITED USE AT OWN RISK What part of that sign does the mayor and coun­cil not un­der­stand?

Our un­der­stand­ing of the term “con­flict of in­ter­est” is that an elected of­fi­cial is in a con­flict when he or she stands to ben­e­fit from a de­ci­sion he or she had a part in mak­ing. To avoid such con­flict, or even the per­cep­tion of same, peo­ple who feel they may be in a con­flict usu­ally not only ab­stain from vot­ing on the is­sue, but also from dis­cussing it. They also leave the meet­ing room dur­ing the dis­cus­sion and de­bate.

Grad­ing this road may not be con­sid­ered a “ma­jor up­grade.” But even if mayor Slade only trav­els over that road once a day, ev­ery time he does so he can­not deny he is not ben­e­fit­ing from what­ever im­prove­ment has been made to it — a de­ci­sion which he him­self helped to make.

And ev­ery time Mayor Slade or any other mem­ber of coun­cil passes that sign at the end of the road, un­less they are us­ing it for emer­gency pur­poses only, are they con­tra­ven­ing of their own rules?

NON-EM­R­GENCY USE PRO­HIB­ITED

Does that di­rec­tive ap­ply to win­ter months only? If so, per­haps coun­cil should con­sider chang­ing its sign, cov­er­ing it up or re­mov­ing it al­to­gether for the sum­mer.

In ar­gu­ing in favour of grad­ing the road last week, mayor Slade said, “if you’re go­ing to use the road for emer­gen­cies, it’s got to be in half de­cent shape.”

We were un­der the im­pres­sion the emer­gency use only per­tained to win­ter, as per the trans­porta­tion di­rec­tive.

What kind of emer­gency could take place dur­ing the sum­mer that would ne­ces­si­tate the grad­ing of this road to al­low emer­gency ve­hi­cles to use it?

Even though it has never been rec­og­nized as a town road, it’s also true the road has been graded in the past on an ad hoc ba­sis. But it’s in­ter­est­ing to note, as far as can be learned, this marks the first time such work has been car­ried out as the re­sult of a di­rec­tive from coun­cil.

It’s highly un­likely any­body, es­pe­cially those who never use it, will ever ob­ject to the grad­ing of this name­less road. But cit­i­zens need to keep some­thing in mind. Dep. mayor Ash’s con­cerns are valid ones. God for­bid any­thing should ever hap­pen on or near that road that would cause in­jury to any­one. But if, for ex­am­ple, con­flict­ing head­lights - one of trans­porta­tion’s con­cerns - were to cause an ac­ci­dent on Colum­bus Drive, re­sult­ing in in­jury and pos­si­ble law­suits, guess who would be on the hook - the tax­pay­ers of Car­bon­ear.

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