District of Ucluelet staff and council discussed the controversial Village Green Revitalization project during the Feb. 22 regular meeting.
About 30 residents attended the meeting in-person and the district received 435 responses to a survey that was conducted from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, 2021. The $1.2 million project aims to make Ucluelet’s downtown core more pedestrian friendly, but roughly half of feedback received express concerns about parking.
Tensions between staff and council and community members within council chambers ran high as Bruce Greig, Ucluelet’s director of community planning, presented a number of architectural renderings he noted as “the 70 per cent detailed design”. One resident audibly booed the room as Greig delved into parking.
“The current design plans for the Village Green Revitalization project creates a net loss of nine parking spaces,” said Greig. He went on to say that the parking spaces immediately in front of Crow’s Nest were removed because the backing of the cars into an intersection is “non standard”.
“Could those spots be changed to angled parking in front of the Crow’s Nest?” asked coun. Marilyn McEwen.
“I’m not a traffic engineer so we have to rely on who ultimately are responsible for putting their professional stamp and taking on the liability for this being safe,” Greig replied.
“I think it would behoove us if we came up with a way to no have any loss of parking in this area,” coun. Rachelle Cole said.
“About the Crow’s Nest parking, can we just say we’re not doing that part and then take it right out of the mix so the engineer doesn’t have to put a stamp on it?” asked coun. Lara Kemps.
“We could. I just do caution that the plans need to be approved by the ministry before we do any construction,” said Greig.
As a result of that exchange, council created and unanimously approved a motion to reduce the loss of parking in front of the Crow’s Nest building.
Crow’s Nest owner Jan Draeseke addressed the room after the resolution was approved.
“Thank you so much for paying attention to the surveys and people’s concerns. I really appreciate it,” she said.
Ucluelet truck driver Ken Johnson raised additional concerns about the project.
“I’m a truck driver. We’re the ones going by that corner all day long, and putting the sidewalk out on that corner… It’s already almost impossible to corner to take. You’re in the other lane and you gotta take the whole road to negotiate that corner now. I don’t understand how we’re gonna put people in a sidewalk on the inside of the tires with a cement wall there. It’s very unsafe,” said Johnson.
Ucluelet resident Alex Marshall voiced similar concerns regarding the ‘pop out’ sections on proposed design plans, like the one placed in front of liquor store on Main Street.
“It would be so dysfunctional (for a large truck) to try to navigate around. These crosswalks just create so much potential for such chaos and accidents. I’m just really confused,” said Marshall.
“All of these comments we will share with the design team. I’m not the landscape architect or the engineer on this, but that’s something we’ve asked them repeatedly to make sure the fish trucks can move through this area because that is part of life in the vicinity of the Village Green and Ucluelet,” he said.
Next steps include refining the design drawings and producing of a complete bid package and construction specifications, with the project being issued for tender this spring. The construction schedule is earmarked to begin in October 2022.
According to Greig, the proposed project is moving at a condensed timeline to take advantage of available grant funding. The district received a $700,000 grant from the provincial government’s Tourism Dependent Community Fund (TDCF) for the project, and if construction is not complete by March 2023, they could potentially lose the TDCF funding.
The playground space is getting renewed in tandem with the Village Green project, but is not tied to the same TDCF funding timeline. An accessibility ramp proposed for the front door of the Ucluelet Aquarium is likely not going to be in the budget for the project due to ballooning costs, according Greig.