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Council suggests face-to-face negotiations over Wellesley trail dispute

Wellesley council has come up with a new plan of attack that has a village neighbourhood divided over a proposed new trail: they want to hold a meeting outside of the council chambers to discuss possible options or solutions.

Under discussion is the Bast Bush Trail, or at least a portion of it slated to run immediately behind the properties of some new homes in the subdivision.

At Monday night’s meeting, councillors suggested Schweitzer Crescent homeowners and other opponents of the trail sit down and have a face-to-face talk with the Wellesley Trails Association to develop a win-win solution for both groups.

Coun. Herb Neher suggested, “If these groups can get together […] and discuss some alternatives, we could be saving a lot of time. They may get together and say ‘this is a great idea’ and we’re home free.”

Coun. Jim Olender agreed, and said he would contact Murray Bremner, the chairman of the WTA, to encourage the two sides to get together and discuss possible alternatives.

While the trails association had hoped to speak at the meeting, the presentation was put off until Oct. 19, so there was no representative at this week’s session.

Mayor Ross Kelterborn expressed some concern that the trails association was not present to have their voice heard and suggested any meeting be put off until after Oct. 19, but Olender said he still thought the initial contact between the two groups needed to be made.

Council requested resident Paul Zepf, who had presented 15 alternative trails in Wellesley as part of his risk assessment of the Bast Bush Trail earlier in the evening, to be part of those talks. Zepf agreed, adding he had already attempted to make contact with the WTA a few weeks earlier.

“At the last [council] meeting, I gave Mr. Bremner my name, my telephone number, and my email. I said ‘phone me up’, and I haven’t gotten any calls.”

Included in Zepf’s completed risk assessment were his alternative trail ideas, as well as other suggestions for creating future trails in the township. One such suggestion was for the Wellesley Trails Association to establish guidelines for the design and evaluation of future trails, such as having a 10-metre stand-off from all property lines to protect home owner’s privacy. Currently the Bast Trail proposal places the trail directly on homeowner’s property lines.

“All the trails that I walk to … have a stand-off from the lot-line. I’ve not run into one, other than this proposal here, that I can recall there hasn’t been a stand-off of at least 10 metres.”

Zepf also explained that the Bast Trail did not fit with township’s Official Plan, which he quoted as saying trails are to be encouraged, “to link major public open spaces.” The proposed trail doesn’t fulfill that requirement.

“It doesn’t interconnect, it doesn’t go somewhere. It loops up [and] it’s isolated. It’s too isolated.”
Schweitzer Crescent resident Kim Ruthig was also on hand to express his concern over the placement of the trail near his property line, saying that the affected homeowners were not opposed to trails in Wellesley, but to the fact the trail backs onto their property. Many buyers paid substantial premiums to ensure their yards would remain undisturbed, he stressed.

“The misinformation being perpetrated via erroneous press reports and by other parties has resulted in a picture being painted of residents in complete opposition of trails in Wellesley Township,” explained Ruthig. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Ruthig continued to explain that the petition presented to council on Sept. 7 in opposition to the trail was not opposed to all trails in the area.

“Our petition contained a clause that supported a place for nature hiking trails [in Wellesley], where appropriate.

We did not object to trails.”

The proposed Bast Bush Trail has divided the town and pitted neighbours against one another ever since it was approved by the township in June.

Council has collected all of the reports, petitions, and other information presented to them over the past few weeks, and will withhold comment until a formal report can be prepared by township staff.

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