Company plans to build major new road to accommodate 763-unit project
“I know the city needs development,” she said at a June 13 public meeting on a 763-unit development being proposed for Minnow Lake. “I know there’s a shortage of housing, but it’s a shame that they want to put it adjacent to already dense areas. Even if I didn’t live on Bancroft, I would wonder why they couldn’t put it somewhere else. This city has so many open spaces.
“It just seems like everything is dumping onto Bancroft. It has become a thoroughfare. Maybe at 3 in the morning the traffic stops for half an hour … It takes me about five minutes just to get out of my driveway every morning.”
Winter said she was keeping an open, a common sentiment among the 35-40 people who attended the meeting, held at Minnow Lake Place on Bancroft Drive.
The project is the first residential development in Sudbury by ARG DEVCO, a division of Interpaving Ltd., a company best known locally for its work repaving and rebuilding local roadways.
ARG DEVCO has built commercial buildings at the city’s Millennium Centre, including Lowes, Best Buy and Toys ‘R’ Us, and has completed residential projects in Timmins and Montreal. The residential development, the company said, would be part of the Millennium Centre, adding a residential component to the huge commercial development.
The Silver Hills Subdivision would be built in phases over five to 15 years, depending on demand and how quickly the approvals process goes. It would eventually include 171 homes, 112 townhouses and 480 apartments.
The company is planning on building a major new road, Silver Hills Drive, which would connect to The Kingsway on one end, and the corner of Bancroft and Bellevue Avenue on the other. Among the proposals is putting in roundabouts at both ends of the road, in an attempt to calm traffic and ensure it flows smoothly.
A traffic study the company commissioned showed the 265,000-square-foot project would add a maximum of about 400 vehicles to the roads every morning, and 500 in the evening.
Steve Vaccaro, the company’s vice-president, said the project is still in its very early stages and nothing is set in stone. He said once specifics of the traffic impact are outlined, most people’s concerns are eased.
“So far, we’ve got good feedback,” he said. “A lot of people were concerned about the lack of information, and about what’s going on. It is a huge project for the area. People are getting honest answers.”
What separates Silver Hill from a similarly sized project planned by Dalron for Minnow Lake is the construction of the new road to handle the added traffic, Vaccaro said.
“There are no intersections in the impacted area that would be negatively affected,” he said. “This project adds to the road infrastructure in the area. We’re not adding new units without adding the infrastructure to handle it.”
In fact, their study found the project would encourage drivers to exit onto The Kingsway from Silver Hill, rather than going back to the much-narrower Bancroft. Residents on Silver Hill, as well as other motorists to the area, would find accessing The Kingsway and downtown easier by using the new road, Vaccaro said, and added the traffic study incorporated worse-case scenarios and allowed for “healthy” growth projections, and still came out positive.
“Silver Hills Drive actually would alleviate some of the traffic,” he said. “In theory, it would also lead to better results on Howey, Bancroft and Bellevue.”
John Lindsay, of the Minnow Lake Community Action Network, and a member of the Say No campaign that’s opposing the project, said, among other things, they object to a plan to use roundabouts at either end of Silver Hills Drive, a measure aimed at, among other things, calming traffic.
“A roundabout, we feel, would be most inappropriate for that area for a variety of reasons,” Lindsay said. “And for pedestrians, we think it would be particularly inappropriate. Sudbury still doesn’t have a policy for pedestrians (at roundabouts.) So, when someone is trying to cross, who goes? Does the car go, or the pedestrian?”
Pedestrians benefit from intersections where traffic has to stop, Lindsay said. That’s not the case in roundabouts.
“One of the benefits of a roundabout is that traffic flows relatively quickly,” he said. Which is a good thing for traffic, but bad for pedestrians. Plus, he said, roundabouts are far more dangerous for people on bicycles.
“The roundabouts here, that they’re proposing, don’t deal with any of the problems we’re having. In fact, it would probably aggravate them.”
For his part, Vaccaro said they’re open to changes in the project design.
“It’s very early in this design stage, and (roundabouts) are just one of the alternatives we are looking at,” he said. “Will we go down that path? I don’t know. Will we go for a more traditional intersection? I don’t know.”
Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett, whose ward includes Minnow Lake, said he's encouraged by what he has heard from the developer so far.
“We got what we wanted out of it,” Kett said, of the planned project. “We wanted a walking trail from Second Avenue to the big box stores, and we got that; we wanted really good access to the greenery on Blueberry Hill, and that’s in the plan; we wanted a nice, wide street, and they’re talking about a 66-foot wide street, and it’s beautiful.
“We wanted a sidewalk, and we got it. We wanted two bicycle trails - not on the street, but by the sidewalk. And we got that, too. We got everything we wanted.”
Kett said that, unlike developments that have run into opposition in other parts of the city, the Silver Hills plan has the potential to improve traffic flow.
“They’re actually building a new road,” he said. “And the traffic study this company has done has shown there won’t be an impact on Bancroft or Howey (drives.) The flow will be towards The Kingsway … All I wanted to know is, will it be safe for the people of my ward? And will it be convenient.”
The project will make its first appearance in front of the city’s planning committee June 25.
Posted by Arron Pickard