Residents of Westmere Road aren’t thrilled about the possibility of having a firehall next door.
The city is currently looking at a few possible locations to relocate the No. 1 Fire Hall, one of which is at the corner of Westmere and Dogwood Street. At Monday’s city council meeting, Gordon Smith presented a petition from the neighbourhood to city council with 33 signatures in opposition to that plan.
Smith says he went door-to-door with the petition to every house in the area, “and I only had one individual who was against signing and one other fella who said he would like to talk to City Hall and find out more information on his own. Other than that, every person I went to was against the location.”
Smith told council one of the residents’ main concerns is the fact that École des Deux Mondes is at the end of Westmere Road, which creates more traffic than other neighbourhoods in which the fire hall could be located. Both sides of the road are also open for parking, which Smith says creates a very narrow corridor already, and would only get more dangerous if fire trucks were going in and out of the area all the time, as well.
“If you’ve got passenger vehicles parked on both sides of the road, you’re not going to have room for a fire truck to get down there, let alone school buses coming through,” Smith says.
Then there’s the noise.
It’s bad enough that they clearly hear every siren that goes down Dogwood Street, Smith says, they don’t want to have them starting up right next door.
“But probably our biggest concern is the loss of green space,” Smith says. “I’ve been there since 1963 and it’s always been a park. Most of the people said they would like it to continue to be a park. We’re not against the fire department finding a new home, just not there.”
City Manager Deborah Sargent says while the Westmere and Dogwood location is currently high on the list of options for the site of the new fire hall, nothing has been decided yet, and they will take Smith and his neighbours’ concerns under advisement.
Sargent told council that the Westmere site, “was purchased some time ago for the potential of a fire hall,” adding that the site has also “been indicated during a number of previous studies to be the optimial location in terms of response times,” but said nothing has been set in stone yet in terms of the new hall’s location.
The conceptual development of the new fire hall was approved during financial planning sessions in December for 2018, so they need to figure out the location relatively soon, because the site chosen will determine much of what needs to go into that design.
Coun. Larry Samson asked Smith if council could alleviate the neighbours’ concerns by incorporating “significant green space that buffered the residences from the sound and made it more pleasantly appealing?”
Smith says “a few trees” likely wouldn’t do much to dampen the sirens, so he didn’t think the neighbours would be okay with that.
Sargent says council and the public can be expecting a report later this year on the sites being considered and recommendations for how to proceed with the project.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield asked how much public engagement will happen during the process. Sargent responded that if the Westmere site is selected, it won’t need to be rezoned so there won’t be an official public hearing, but council can still decide to engage the public in another way, should they so choose.
“It’s early days yet,” Sargent says.