Village of Burns Lake businesses not asked for downtown input

Burns Lake businesses owners fear councils phase one plans will negatively impact their businesses and their customers.

Businesses in the downtown core are concerned that the proposed phase one curb bulbs will create parking issues for customers and create safety issues for large vehicle traffic

Businesses in the downtown core are concerned that the proposed phase one curb bulbs will create parking issues for customers and create safety issues for large vehicle traffic

Local business owners along Hwy. 16 say they are being left in the cold when it comes to any planning or decision making for the Village of Burns Lake’s proposed phase one downtown revitalization project.

The issue stems from council’s decision to forge ahead with the phase one plans to take advantage of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure repaving of Hwy. 16 in the downtown core this summer.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of July 4, 2012, local business owner Wayne Brown and building owner Wilf Dueck also addressed council about the issue, saying that proposed curb bulbs at the intersection of Third Ave. and Hwy. 16 will decrease customer parking and cause difficulties with deliveries to the businesses in the area.

Brown said to Lakes District News that he was never approached by council or village staff about the proposed upgrades, until the Lakes District News edition of June 20, 2012, reported council’s plans to forge ahead with the phase one plans, despite his plea to council for some changes.

“Following this, Councillor Frank Varga did come and see me and he spent about two hours with me and Wilf Dueck explaining the issues, but he said it is almost too late to change the plans,” Brown said.

Brown said he is not just concerned about the parking issues that the curb bulbs will create in the downtown core, but he is also concerned about safety. “I was outside my shop this morning and two semi trucks passed each other. They had to come over close to the curb so that they didn’t hit each other  … there is already issues with this highway, so adding curb bulbs to the mix will just create a disaster and create safety issues,” Brown said.

He said he first heard about the phase one plans by reading the Lakes District News and said he was not invited to be part of the village’s downtown revitalization committee that is comprised of local businesses owners who have been providing input into the plans.

Laura Rayfield, owner of Blue Zone Clothing and Gifts, in the downtown core said she has not been approached by council or any committee members about the plans. “I had heard about the village’s plans quite some time ago, but I didn’t know what they looked like or when they were going ahead, so I phoned the village and asked them to send me some information,” she said.

Rayfield said she can see numerous problems with the plans, including issues with traffic congestion, safety issues with semi trucks, customer difficulties with proposed parallel parking spaces in front of her store and issues with snow plowing.

“I wonder how semi trucks are going to cope … there is no room for these trucks as it is, without adding more obstacles.”

She said she observes people already having difficulties with parallel parking along Hwy. 16 when parking spaces are limited. “When there is no other option but to parallel park, people may just continue on.”

Rayfield is also concerned about the effect the phase one plans will have on her elderly and handicapped customers. “I have a lot of elderly customers and they won’t want to park too far away, especially in the winter when it is icy.”

She said she fully supports the village fixing up the area and improving the look of the town, but not at the cost of her business. “Has the village asked elderly people what they think of the plans? Or gone around to local businesses? No one has approached me and it doesn’t take much time to go door to door.”

She also expressed concerns about the proposed trees that would be planted in curb bulbs in the downtown area. She said vehicle traffic already has enough hazards to contend with on the highway, so seeing the signs for her store is already a challenge, but by adding trees to the mix, she fears that passersby won’t know her shop, or the other five businesses along that stretch of road, are there behind the trees.

“Why don’t they fix up Government Street instead? So much could be done and no businesses would be impacted,” she added.

Helen Finch, owner of Redfern’s Coffee House said she has also not been approached by councillors or the committee.

“I find this strange because the plans will negatively effect my businesses,” she said.

She and her husband own the land, the business and the building and wonder why they have not been asked for any input into the plans.

“We get deliveries four times a week to the store and the trucks can’t park on Third Ave. because it’s too steep. They have to park in front of the store on Hwy. 16. With curb bulbs, they won’t be able to do that so I don’t know how else they will be able to deliver to us. This is heavy loads we are talking about too,” she said.

She is also concerned that customers traveling into Burns Lake from the West, who usually park outside the Beacon Theatre and laundromat will just pass by without stopping, if curb bulbs are placed at that intersection.

“I don’t know why council doesn’t just swallow their pride and talk to everyone about this. They need to show some respect for the people that bring tax dollars into the municipality. I think it is horrible that they are doing this …. most of the members of council have lived here long enough … they know better,” she said.

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of June 20, 2012, Councillor Frank Varga said, “ …. All delivery vehicles have trolleys. In Vancouver storefront proprietors don’t expect to be able to unload and load directly in front of their business. Not many have that option.”

Finch said she has invested over eight years of her life into the store and if the village proceeds without any changes the business will be forced to close. “I will have to put up a piece of plywood on the window that says closed due to village beautification …… I will have no other choice.”

As reported in the Lakes District News edition of June 20, 2012, Mayor Luke Strimbold said, “You [council] are moving very fast with this decision. I think we have to consider the long term effects that this could have on businesses. If there is no option to get in and unload … I want to caution you that some valid points have been brought up.”

Michael Riis-Christianson from the Lakes District Theatre Society agreed with Mayor Strimbold.

“Although I believe we support downtown revitalization in principle, we feel council is moving too fast with these proposed changes and hasn’t put a lot of thought into the impact these changes, particularly those along Hwy. 16, will have on businesses. The theatre suffers from a shortage of parking already, in fact, the entire downtown core does and our board sees the proposed changes along Hwy. 16 as only exacerbating that problem. We also require loading and unloading space and the changes will pretty much do away with what little we have now. Consequently, we don’t see the proposed changes along Hwy. 16 as particularly beneficial to the Beacon Theatre. In fact, we see them as an impediment to business,” he said.

“I think the best way to beautify Burns Lake is to attract new businesses that will invest in our community, particularly in the downtown core. Empty store fronts are not attractive and speak volumes about the ability of this municipality to attract, or even retain businesses in our community. I believe Mayor Luke Strimbold has noted publicly that the municipality is moving pretty fast on these changes and I think council should listen to him and slow down. Let’s do this right the first time,” he said.

Rick Martin, village director of public works said, “The curb bulbs will require a change in the way we plow Hwy.16, but we believe that with different methodology and perhaps additional attachments on existing equipment the public works crew can adapt. We will have better information after the first season,” he said.

Carl Lutz, district manager for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure said the ministry is working with the village.

He said ministry designers and traffic engineers are conformable with the plans and said they comply with all ministry regulations.

“It is the standard to have 12 feet for each lane … the village’s designs are allowing for almost 15 feet in each lane, including the curb bulbs. The upgrades will improve safety and the new paving plans will improve ridability so I don’t think there will be any issues for semi trucks.”

Lutz said the ministry did look at parking issues in the downtown core. “It’s a give and take situation and we found compromises for parking where we could. The ministry is excited about this. It will be great for Burns Lake and great for the Hwy.16 corridor.”

Plans for a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Third Ave. and Government St. have also come under public scrutiny.

The roundabout is planned to be directly in front of the Burns Lake Fire and Rescue Department’s fire hall.

Fire chief Jim McBride said fire trucks exiting the fire hall will be expected to follow the traffic pattern when exiting the fire hall.

“We will have to exit the fire hall circling the roundabout and go up Third Avenue,” McBride said.

McBride said he is not sure if there will be any issues backing the fire trucks into the hall as he has not seen any detailed plans laying out the distances between the roundabout and the fire hall’s driveway.

“The conceptual plans that I have seen led me to believe it will not restrict our movement as far as backing up the trucks,” he added.

The roundabout is planned for the third and final phase of the village’s plans.