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South End development causing safety, privacy concerns for some residents

Greenvalley Drive residents frustrated with motorized vehicles driving on trail behind their home

Frustrations have been mounting for some residents in the neighbourhood around Countryside Arena, as an ongoing development has removed what was once a large plot of greenspace.

Dana Campeau has lived at her home on Greenvalley Drive for 15 years, but construction over the past summer to install a drainage ditch and walking path ahead of the development of a new subdivision has left her and her husband, Ian, feeling disgruntled.

"We had sent an email out to probably close to 20 city people, between the city, our MPs, the mayor, the people who are supposed to be overseeing this project, and it was a summary of what's gone on from start to finish,” Campeau said. “We sent that out in early November and the only person we heard back from is you guys (Sudbury.com).

"In a nutshell, they've pretty much demolished all of the greenspace that is behind our house, adjacent to it all the way up to the bypass and all the way back to Countryside. If you were to drive down our street right now it used to be all greenspace and now you can see straight through,” she said. “If you're coming down the Walmart hill to go to Countryside Arena, you can see our house on Greenvalley Drive — they've taken everything down."

In addition to losing a great deal of greenspace near their home, Campeau has expressed concerns over the safety of those who use the nearby gravel walking path that was installed as part of the project.

"One night there was an SUV bombing through back here, if there was anyone on the trail in the dark they wouldn't have a hope in hell," said Campeau. "We've had a snowmachine, several ATVs, a motorbike, cars and trucks."

Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh is the councillor for residents in the Countryside area and has been made aware of the issues that have been raised by some residents.

"Apparently the gate at the Countryside Arena was opened so (vehicles) could get through. The gate is now locked so if they go in there they can't get through the other end," said McIntosh. "I called to confirm as well that the guardrails are being put in so that they can't get through. My understanding is the guardrails are so that you don't go over the culvert and you can't go through, it'll be narrowed."

Campeau has also raised some issues over privacy, as her home once had a dense treeline behind it acting as a natural fence. With the clear cutting of numerous trees and the installation of the walking path, the interior of the Campeau family home is now visible to anyone walking along the path.

The city has planted a number of trees in the area, including a number of small cedar trees, but the trees are not fully grown and don't provide a great deal of privacy.

"They've established all of this, but there's no minding our yard, it would be like if somebody put a walking trail right through your backyard," said Campeau. 

"We recognize that the property the trail on is certainly not our property, but there was always a natural fence. When they came in here about seven years ago to put a drainage system in, they lined our backyard with cedar trees. When they came to do this project, they took all of those trees out and we said we'd be happy if they just moved them. We're happy with that natural fence line, but they didn't, people came and picked them up and kept them."

City of Greater Sudbury drainage engineer Paul Javor has been involved with the project and explained that the city's role in replanting trees and landscaping is somewhat limited as the majority of the project is in the hands of a private developer.

"We did plant a number of trees along the property and we did plant a number of other trees along the project limits," said Javor. 

"A lot of the trees that came down were for the city project, but bordering the city project further to the east is a development property and for the purposes of their development they've taken down a great number of trees for the purpose of building their subdivision. So there's a bit of misunderstanding, not all of the trees were taken down for the city project; some of the trees were on private development land that the developer took down."

Dana's husband attended public consultations ahead of the project being started, and the couple is aware that they don't have control over what is done on property that they don't own, but their safety concerns remain, as does their dissatisfaction with the loss of greenspace.

"The drainage ditch is right behind our property, which I get, it's not our property and there's nothing we can do about that," said Campeau. "And they put out these things in the paper that they're making efforts to re-green Sudbury. I just think it's interesting when you see the before and after pictures of what they've done."

McIntosh was empathetic to the couple's frustration, but explained that these types of issues are not uncommon among residents.

"I have somebody who is upset about trees coming down, but it's private land; we don't have the kind of power (to tell people they can't remove trees)," said McIntosh. "The thing is, if we deny something and it's not a reasonable denial, it goes to the LPAT and they overturn it."

The Ward 9 councillor admitted that in the past she too had scant understanding about zoning and how it could change the property surrounding people's neighbourhoods.

"Until I got involved with Rainbow Routes and became more aware of zoning, it never occurred to me to find out what the zoning was next door or if somebody actually owned it, (or) it was just a greenspace," said McIntosh.

"Just because it's vacant doesn't mean it doesn't belong to somebody. In this city there's not a whole lot of Crown land. Most of the land is owned by somebody and they have rights as a landowner and they can do things like cut down trees and stuff like that. It's difficult to have change go on around you because you don't expect it, but it's city property."

McIntosh said that safety issues had been raised by a resident other than the Campeaus, and to her knowledge had been rectified.

"I got a call with concern for people and children, but I think they put some barriers in there as a temporary measure for pedestrians," said McIntosh. "It was a different resident who called me about that and I asked about it and they took care of it and that resident was happy with what they did."

Campeau said that she and her husband are now in the same spot as residents on the opposite end of Countryside Drive who were impacted by the project.

"Right now, we're trying to get the city to finish this off and fence this so the whole world can't see in our house, and to put in a barrier from this drainage ditch," said Campeau. "They fenced at the other end of Countryside, but apparently that was almost a year and a half long battle, because they did the same thing there with removing all the trees and running the trail."

Javor says that barriers have been put up, and that trails like the one in the Countryside neighbourhood have signs put up to deter the use of motorized vehicles on the trails.

"Unfortunately it's a bit of a compliance issue across all city properties and private properties," said Javor.

"Everything is gated to the best of our abilities, we definitely don't want cars. We spoke to the developer to make sure that their property doesn't permit access to the trails and they were happy to work with us to address that. I think that was the little loophole where people were able to access it and hopefully that's been addressed."