Residents of Smiths Falls divided over angled parking change

The town of Smiths Falls is doing away with angled parking. A contentious topic among residents and business owners, after the previous council said they were going to keep it last year.

A plan recently approved by council that will change the way people park in downtown Smiths Falls, Ont., has residents divided.

The project will transform the main street in town, Beckwith Street, and this will include switching from angled to parallel parking.

“We’re already losing capacity,” said Justin Duhamel, the owner of The Groggery Nightclub. “The parallel sort of doubles and triples that problem.”

Last week, Smiths Falls council reversed a decision the previous council made to keep angled parking. It’s a major issue for several people who use the main street every day.

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“All of that effort that was put in and all of a sudden it was turned over very quickly,” said one resident who chose not to be identified.

“We’re looking at a big squeeze for having people being able to park,” said Duhamel.

But the town’s mayor, Shawn Pankow, says the previous resolution was passed just by two votes, as one councillor was absent. Pankow says the “complete street” design will be a total overhaul to the streetscape.

“We’re going to see dramatic improvements with each intersection,” says Pankow. We’ll see more pedestrian crossovers and better accessibility for disabled residents.”

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For decades, Smiths Falls has had angled parking on Beckwith Street. The layout means you have to check several times to ensure the way is clear. A problem for some residents in town like Peter Danglish.

“I support the change because I find getting out of the parking spot is rather difficult and sometimes dangerous,” said Danglish.

“Most studies that we’ve seen would indicate that parallel is safer than angled,” said Pankow.

But others say it should be left as is, citing the change will drastically reduce the number of parking spaces in the downtown. Another problem several business owners like Duhamel have is the fact that this wasn’t an election issue last year.

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“It was presented to us as settled: we didn’t have to worry about talking about it during the election,” says Duhamel. “We feel like that was more of a deception.”

Council will still have to secure government funding to be able to fully cover the project. Pankow says they hope to have the “complete streets” design complete by 2021.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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