Westminster Village Commitee Survey

1. How do you feel about the safety of major railway lines going through residential areas?

It’s the tragic events of Lac Mégantic or the (near tragic) situations like Mississauga (1979) that raise awareness of this issue, especially as we urbanize and gentrify closer and closer to railways. Certainly, Lethbbridge has a couple of advantages:

  • a) Unlike Lac Mégantic, we are on a level plain so the concept of “runaway” cars is much less a concern.
  • b) According to Transport Action Canada, 93% of all rail accidents occur inside the rail yard facilities and the actual number of non-rail yard accidents in Canada are on the decline.
  • c) Because of the High Level Viaduct, the number of switches, the siding and 3 major “at level” crossings (over Highway 3 and 43rd Street North and South), trains travel through our city at a slower speed, which minimizes the potential for high-speed collisions and impacts.

NOTE: none of the above means that accidents won’t happen, just that we do have some conditions that naturally provide us with increased safety. A car / train collision could certainly create a dangerous situation for all of us.

It is also important to note that the federal government regulates the rail transportation industry. However, City Council can certainly play a major role for our citizens by asking the federal government to act upon some of the following:

  • a) increase the penalties for companies who mislabel or improperly label tanker cars or transport trucks (especially those carrying highly flammable or poisonous materials),
  • b) create a ‘real-time’ system that permits our local protective services (police/fire/ems) to see the “active” ingredients in any rail car passing through the city,
  • c) improve the system of information sharing with municipalities, so that when accidents do occur, protective services can respond appropriately to protect our citizens and property.

2. How do you perceive parking problems within the city, especially residential areas?

Older neighbourhoods like Westminster have some natural advantages over newer areas. The block-street system and larger property sizes do accommodate more vehicles than newer curved-street / cul-de-sac areas of the city. However, in certain neighbourhoods, developers have been buying older homes and replacing them with multi-family units, which is creating more on-street parking issues. Additionally, some streets see much more of this activity than others.
During this term, I asked our planning department if we are (GIS) mapping these neighbourhoods, giving our development officers and regulatory bodies (MPC and SDAB) a view as to the intensity of multi-family redevelopment in neighbourhoods (and I asked the question based on a Westminster situation). The short answer is ‘we are starting to’ although I do not believe we are using the data to make appropriate decisions and, as such, continue to add greater parking pressures on neighbourhoods, especially those in Westminster.

3. How will you balance the needs of people living in residential areas with the needs of developers?

A local “tea party” (a home meeting hosted by the developer with the intent of sharing the proposal with local residents) would be one avenue of balancing the needs. In my experience on Council, residents have the greatest struggles with developers when the developer simply enters a neighbourhood and builds without consultation with, or consideration of, the neighbours. As with all situations, communication strengthens relationships. In this case, developers ought to take the extra time to meet with local neighbours - to show plans, to answer and ask questions, to change concepts to address local needs, to identify solutions for site cleanliness and safety, et cetera – to minimize conflict and help build stronger, more cohesive neighbourhoods. Therefore, one manner of balancing the needs of the developer and neighbours could be to make the “tea party” a part of the permitting process, especially with multi-family developments.