Was the latest Car Free Sunday in Courtenay too much of a pain in the saddle for local businesses and residents?
City Mayor Larry Jangula certainly thinks so – but to be sure, he suggested last night that every merchant and resident along the three closed-off streets should be asked for their opinion.
He said that for around $2,500, an independent survey could be commissioned which would help guide council decisions on whether to approve similar events in the future.
Jangula said that contrary to what some people were suggesting, he believed “quite a few people were very upset” – including several businesses that were negatively impacted by the road closures.
He gave two specific examples, but said there were others who had contacted him. The owner of Comox Taxi on McPhee had, he suggested, been vilified for criticizing the initiative; and Appletree Market on Fifth was virtually shut down for a day, much to the concern of its owner.
Not only had Courtenay Council authorized significant lengths of road to be closed, but the council had also contributed around $1,000 to a $4,423 budget to help fund the initiative, and he questioned whether it was money well spent.
While the council would in due course receive a report from the organizers on the event and its impact, Jangula said human nature dictated that it was bound to present a positive picture.
So he wanted to launch an independent survey to obtain a complete cross-section of views.
But Coun. Jon Ambler said the total budget of over $4,000 did not all come from taxpayers; some of it was from merchants and businesses that were supportive.
And he added: “I’m not sure I want to spend $2,500 for a survey about whether we should have spent $1,000 on this. That doesn’t add up.”
Along with Coun. Doug Hillian, Ambler expressed support for a full debate on the subject at a later date, after the organizers had inputted their considered observations to City Hall.
“To debate this right now would be just pooling our ignorance,” said Ambler.
It was not as though a decision needed to be taken quickly – there were, he noted, 350 or more days to the next potential Car Free Sunday event and no commitments were being made by anyone at this stage.
Councillors agreed to await the report from the organizers before debating the issue further, with Jangula urging anyone with a view on the issue, particularly if they were in the affected area – mainly McPhee, Fitzgerald and Fifth Street – to make their opinions known.
His survey idea was not taken up.
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