UPDATE: Robertson name changed approved despite...
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Apr 14, 2011  |  Vote 0    0

UPDATE: Robertson name changed approved despite opposition

Ottawa East News

NEPEAN - A proposal to change the Bells Corners strip from Richmond/Robertson Road to Lloyd Francis Boulevard was approved by council on April 13 despite some last-minute protests from concerned community members and businesses.

The name change, part of College Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s election platform is aimed at reducing confusion and safety issues in the area.

Richmond Road continues westbound past Baseline Road for about a kilometre, and then takes a sharp left southbound for the Village of Richmond. Drivers continuing straight suddenly find themselves on Robertson Road.

But long-time Bells Corners resident Sharon Navin said she feels that robbing one family of their commemoration isn’t the way to solve the problem.

“It’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed by putting some well placed signage at Al’s Steakhouse and other places,” she said. “I feel like it pits one family against the other. If I was a descendant of Mr. Francis’s I wouldn’t feel honoured because it takes away from someone else.”

Lloyd Francis was a Liberal member of parliament, speaker of the House of Commons and a local developer.

His son, Paul Francis, said that his father helped to build nearly 80 per cent of modern Bells Corners.

John Robertson helped build the first eight locks of the Rideau Canal and then established a farm, general store and schoolhouse in what is now Bells Corners.

“I think it is a great way to commemorate my father,” Francis said, adding that old Richmond Lane could be re-named to honour Robertson.

Francis said he was surprised by the opposition and that he thought it would be safer for emergency and police vehicles to have one name identifying the road from Baseline to Eagleson roads.

“Not more than a day or two goes by that I don’t get someone in my store asking for directions,” Elizabeth Montsko, owner of Sew For It on Moodie Drive, said. “And there are a lot of problems with GPS sending people to Richmond Road addresses in Westboro.”

While Montsko said doesn’t know if re-naming the road is the perfect solution, she said she has been aware of the issue for about a year.

“It was reported in the media about a year ago,” she said. “So I think most businesses would have had the opportunity to have information about it.”

Montsko, a member of the Bells Corners Business Improvement Area (BIA) said the item was presented at their annual general meeting.

“We were told parts were to be re-named and they (Chiarelli’s office) had gone to the Nepean Museum for options,” Montsko said. “We new it was going to planning committee.”

BIA executive director Alex Lewis said that there was very little input on the name change following the annual general meeting in February.

“We support the name change,” he said.

Lewis, who used to work in Chiarelli’s office, was one of the staff who went out knocking on the doors of the affected businesses to hand out a survey.

Of 194 surveys, there were 38 respondents, of those, 34 were in favour of the change.

“That’s actually a pretty high number considering a lot of people who didn’t have any objections would simply not fill out the survey,” Chiarelli said, adding that the city could have mailed out the survey, but his office felt they would get more respondents if they were hand delivered.

But some still feel left out in the cold.

Darren Sproule, general manager for Graham Nissan on Robertson, said that he doesn’t remember anyone at the dealership receiving the survey and doesn’t see it as a positive thing.

“I don’t see how changing the name of the road will re-brand Bells Corners,” he said. “It’s not a positive thing for anyone. I don’t want to think about how much it will cost for all the new materials we will have to buy to change the address — bills of sale, business cards, all kinds of stuff.”

Zola’s Restaurant owner Tony Vacchio also said he doesn’t remember receiving a survey and was shocked on April 12 when he received a call asking him his opinion on the change.

“I may have heard something about it, but I didn’t think it would come to fruition because it is such a silly idea,” he said.

Vacchio said Zola’s has been in the area for 25 years and was really hard hit after the Nortel crash. He agrees something needs to be done to revitalize Bells Corners as people in Barrhaven and Kanata no longer have to go there to shop.

“We are constantly re-inventing ourselves. We serve a breakfast now that we never did before,” he said.

As for the address change, Vacchio said that there would be some cost, but changes to the website would be fairly simple.

“I guess everyone will get used to it eventually,” he said. “Maybe we could have a compromise and call it Lloyd Robertson.”

Normally the naming of a street is left up to the city’s commemorative naming committee, of which Chiarelli is a member, but he said it is common practice in the re-naming of a street that the concerned parties come up with options.

“We wanted to make sure the name we chose had a Bells Corners focus,” he said.

Chiarelli also added the reason the item moved so quickly from planning committee to council was because of the public consultation period for the re-naming of a section of the street through Lynwood Village to Old Richmond Road.

“To have that process work, it had to be tied to an approved motion for the Lloyd Francis Boulevard,” Chiarelli said.

For business owners and residents like Craig MacAulay of Lynwood Village, there is no questioning that Francis should be honoured, only that they felt the community wasn’t consulted.

“They (city staff) said the community associations were behind them, but Lynwood Village Community Association barely exists now and I doubt the Bellwood Mobile Home owners association was consulted,” he said, adding that surveys sent out to businesses don’t seem like the proper amount of public consultation.

“I don’t know what exactly would be the right way and I am not suggesting spending a lot of tax dollars, but I talked to a lot of people who weren’t aware of the change,” he said.

But family and friends of Francis are positive about the change.

Bill Teron, who partnered with Francis to build homes in what is now Lynwood Village, said that he changed the way housing was done in Ottawa and should be recognized for that.

“I know people are resistant to change, but people like Dick Bell, Andy Haydon and D. Aubrey Moodie have had their accomplishments honoured for 50 years,” Teron said. “Lloyd Francis hasn’t had that, I think to encourage young idealists like him, we have to show them how we honour people who helped to shape the community.”


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