"Positive step towards reconciliation'

A 2015 aerial photo shows a view looking north of Mohawk Lake. Mohawk Park is the treed area above the lake, and the Glebe Lands are to the left. Brian Thompson / The Expositor

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A city council decision to remove the Glebe Lands from future transportation plans is a positive step towards reconciliation, says the Six Nations elected council.

“Today, the Six Nations elected council views the City of Brantford’s decision to exclude our Glebe Lands as a positive step towards reconciliation and relationship building between the City of Brantford and Six Nations,” the Six Nations council said in a statement released this week.

“We further hope the City of Brantford will continue ongoing dialogue with Six Nations to meet the legal consultation, accommodation, environmental and archaeological requirements for any and all future alternative route developments.”

City council last week approved plans to spend $950,000 on an environmental assessment on a proposed road, which would connect Oak Park Road to West Brant by way of a bridge over the Grand River to Colborne Street West. It would cost about $84 million to build.

City council also voted in favour of a motion by Ward 1 Coun. Jan Vanderstelt to take the Glebe Lands, property behind Pauline Johnson Collegiate, out of its future transportation plans, shelving once and for all the proposed Brantford Southern Access Road.

“The BSAR concept has been a contentious issue between the Six Nations and the City of Brantford from its conceptual plans in 1973,” the Six Nations council said in the statement.

“Efforts to impose the BSAR through our lands beginning in the 1970s have only fuelled tensions between Six Nations and the City of Brantford.”

Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis said he is pleased by the statement from Six Nations council.

“The city is committed to participating in an ongoing dialogue with the Six Nations, and to working with Chief Hill and the Six Nations Elected Council to address their interests and concerns as part of the environmental assessment process for the transportation master plan,” Davis said.

“Furthermore, in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation, the city is pleased to meet with Chief Hill and Six Nations staff ahead of the environmental assessment process to discuss the plan further.”

The BSAR has long been a subject of heated debate as the city looked to build a transportation route that would link West Brant to Highway 403 via the Wayne Gretzky Parkway. Two-thirds of the road – Veterans Memorial Parkway, which connects West Brant to Clarence Street South, and the Gretzky parkway, from Colborne Street East to Powerline Road — have been built. Missing is the third section to fill the gap between the Veterans and Gretzky parkways.

The missing link was controversial because the road would encroach on the Glebe Lands.

Although many Six Nations people have long objected to the city’s plans, there was an agreement to allow the BSAR to go ahead. However, the deal included a 15-year sunset clause that took effect in 2000.

With thousands of homes being built in West Brant, traffic congestion has become an issue along Clarence Street South, as well as Brant Avenue, as motorists drive through the city to connect to the 403.

Still, while city councillors are now heading in another direction to provide that highway access, they haven’t escaped opposition.

At a meeting earlier this week, city councillors heard from two residents who live near to where the Oak Park Road extension will be built in West Brant.

Pat Fedak, who lives close to the Brant Conservation Area, and Beth Howell-Vervaecke, a longtime Oakhill Drive resident, say the proposed road will have a huge impact on their neighbourhood.

They say they are worried about noise, air quality and the effect on the conservation area.

And they urged councillors to scrap the plan and look for other options.

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