Council says no to ATVs passing through Lindsay after town residents push back in poll

ATV bypass recommended as alternative

By Kirk Winter

A close vote will see council looking for another way to link trails, other than a path through Lindsay.

After much passionate debate and suggestions of secret deals made between councillors, Kawartha Lakes council will be recommending that ORVs not be allowed to pass through Lindsay.

In a tie vote among councillors at the committee of the whole meeting, Mayor Andy Letham cast the deciding vote to halt the proposed route through Lindsay and instead look at another option.

Council will now look at a bypass that will miss Lindsay to allow the north and south trails to still be connected.

Councillors Andrew Veale and Doug Elmslie spearheaded the new proposal. They both see it as a compromise that will respect the wishes of the residents of Lindsay who oppose off-road vehicles on their streets and yet still get the trails eventually connected for the use of the local ORV community. (ORVs are also referred to as ATVs.)

Veale proposed that staff bring forward the costing of a bypass route around Lindsay that would go down Golden Mile Road to Highway 36. After the construction of an ATV/pedestrian bridge in the area of the old railway crossing, it would then connect to Thunderbridge Road.

“The task force has put a lot of time and effort into this issue,” Veale said. “Based on the feedback we have received from Lindsay residents and the concern about more traffic on Angeline Street and Colborne Street if this option is cost effective it will be a good compromise that respects both groups.”

Mayor Andy Letham suggested that Veale’s motion also include that the linkage through the town of Lindsay will not be approved at this time, and that the issue be sent back to the ORV Task Force to look at multiple bypass options including one with a bridge link, which the councillor accepted as a friendly amendment.

Elmslie strongly supported Veale stating, “I would dearly love to see a route through Lindsay, but I have talked to Councillor Veale about a multi-use bridge and I am happy to see it looked at here. I am less and less comfortable with a road route through Lindsay. I believe we received a representative sample of Lindsay public opinion in the surveys we conducted and I am quite happy to support this initiative.”

Elmslie added that if the new initiative can be considered in the context of the city’s Active Transportation Plan then other sources of funding might be available, rather than citizens footing the bill through taxes.

Councillor Emmett Yeo – whose ward is in the far north — spoke strongly in favour of Veale’s proposal.

“Sixty-six percent in opposition to ATVs coming through Lindsay is a big number,” he said, referencing the percentage of Lindsay residents who voted in the city poll.

“I agree there should be no route through Lindsay. The bypass with a bridge was talked about before during the last council and it needs to be looked at again.”

The mayor said he thinks that “a route through Lindsay would be a disaster.”

“We need to put a long-term plan in place that will help solve this issue. We are looking for trouble when we don’t respect what people are saying on a certain issue. We need to find an alternative for ATVs,” Letham said.

The mayor suggested that if a bridge is the choice that ATV and snowmobile groups could help defray part of the costs by fundraising.

Councillor Pat Dunn, who is also the chair of the ORV Task Force, said he would not speak against Veale’s motion, but wanted council to understand what they had before them.

“There are 20,000 people in Lindsay. We had only a 5 per cent turnout for our public survey held in August and of that only 3.3 per cent of the total population of Lindsay opposed the linkage. These are hardly overwhelming numbers. This is a skewed result,” Dunn said.

Dunn wondered if this would set a precedent, wondering if “every time we don’t want to make a decision we have a poll?”

“If we need polls to make a decision we will never make a decision again. I have no issue with a bridge but we could be postponing a decision for the next 50 years. Someone is always going to be offended when decisions are made. Council needs to make a decision on issues like this,” Dunn said.

Councillor Ron Ashmore took the discussion a step further saying the discussions have “made a mockery out of the ATV Task Force.”

“Deals have been made between councillors and I find that very disturbing. This motion has been concocted and a bridge will take years to build. I am really disturbed by these deals being made. Councillors shouldn’t flip flop. I don’t like when secret deals are made.”

Letham took umbrage with Ashmore’s statements.

“We are just talking about options. Two councillors talking is not deal making. Your comments are completely out of line,” the mayor said.

Councillor Kathleen Seymour- Fagan pointed out the task force had looked at a bridge and discussed it, but that they “were asked to look at a pilot project without a bridge and that’s what we did.”

Noting the polarization of the issue, Councillor Tracy Richardson said they just need a “reasonable solution.”

Deputy Mayor Pat O’Reilly, who last spring was the only councillor to raise concerns about ORVs in Lindsay, was very pleased with the direction council was moving.

“We now have options to look at more opportunities and explore these at the next meeting.”

A grassroots group had formed called Keep Our Roads Safe in Lindsay during the past couple of months to oppose the ATV route in town. This included using volunteers to knock on doors and get feedback from town residents, encouraging them to vote against the proposal on the city’s ‘Jump In’ website.

When a vote was taken whether to send Veale’s motion to the next regular council meeting for final approval, council split 4-4 with Veale, Elmslie, Yeo and O’Reilly supporting the motion with Ashmore, Dunn, Seymour-Fagan and Richardson opposing the motion. Letham broke the tie in favour of supporting the motion which will now go to council for approval Sept. 21.

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