Sustainability Guidelines Questions to PAC

A letter from Jerry Miller to Joanne Poirier, Director of Urban Planning

February 9, 2011

Joanne Poirier
Director of Urban Planning
City of Westmount

Subject: SUSTAINABILITY-Guidelines

Dear Joanne,

I am following up on your request to me to send you a written statement of my comments at your recent sustainability presentation. I commend you and PAC for your good work.

I began with the thought that there had been missed opportunities during two recent street reconstructions by the City. On  Green Avenue, given enough advance notice, there was an opportunity to incorporate bioswales into the design. This would have demonstrated and highlighted in a very visible way Westmounts’ commitment to sustainable actions.

The fall reconstruction of Mount Pleasant avenue (or was it Elm street) presented another opportunity to move beyond the sidewalk-road concept to a more friendly pedestrian environment. Streets are urban spaces which should be given equal attention to that given to other urban spaces. Some streets in Westmount with lighter vehicular traffic could be designed to make the pedestrian domain dominate over the car. The blurring of the lines between vehicular and pedestrian use can produce a safer street and a healthier friendlier environment. This approach slows car traffic, reduces traffic flow through appropriate design and choice of paving materials, landscaping and lighting.. A single lane of traffic on such streets, where feasible, would result in a contribution to cleaner air and reduced noise. A well designed linear urban space with these goals in mind could foster street communities with pride in their space and a responsibility to sustainability in their actions.

A demonstration on such a model street could lead to the implementation of these ideas on other streets in Westmount with the benefits accruing to all Westmounters.

Of course not all streets in Westmount lend themselves to this approach. However several short east-west streets such as Springfield, Chesterfield, Sommerville and possibly Melbourne could be transformed at the time of renovation. North-south streets such as Olivier and Irvine avenues, amongst others could also be candidates for “ pedestrian-friendly streets”. This may not represent the best selection but demonstrates the idea.

Streets with lower traffic flow will probably not figure prominently in the new traffic plan being commissioned by the City and as such should not delay these opportunities as they come along.

I believe another opportunity is presently available (at least for planning) for the development of Victoria avenue south of Sherbrooke street. The construction of the MUHC complex has the potential to create increased traffic flow and pressure for undesirable development. With it’s mix of small businesses, service establishments, cafes and residences,

Victoria could be planned to become an attractive “village” street with dominance given to the pedestrian domain and efforts made to reduce vehicular traffic. Could the old abandoned Westmount train station become an interesting pole to this approach for Victoria ( think eventual pedestrian link to the Glen site) instead of the sorry state it now presents?

The sustainability initiatives presented at the meeting were centered on the private domain and were well received. An equal effort should be addressed in the public domain.

In order to begin this process I believe that a strong cooperation and coordination is necessary between Public Works and Urban Planning which should be supported by Council.

It is of prime importance that a schedule of renovations and reconstructions of streets and other urban spaces be made available to the Planning Advisory Committee well ahead of their intended implementation. This would allow Urban planning the time to integrate design ideas leading to safer, healthier and more attractive community streets. Residents would be encouraged through such developments to sustainable actions and the greening of their environment.

Cordially,

Jerry Miller

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