Road name change consultation coming with 2021 tax bill

Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Citizens of the town of Fort Frances will have another chance to weigh in on the Colonization Road debate next year.

Following the introduction of a motion by Councillor Doug Judson at November 23, the town sent the issue to committee in order to further decide what path, if any, the town should take in renaming the pair of roads. At that previous meeting, no councillors objected to the motion to rename the roads, but concerns were brought up about the proper way to go about a name change, as well as whether it’s appropriate to do so at this time, citing the ongoing pandemic and budget plans as more timely concerns.

Monday night saw the Planning and Development Executive Committee return with a report to council recommending the town move forward with the beginning processes of what could become a formal name change. the report, written by the town’s Chief Building Officer (CBO) Cody Vangel, recommends that the town develop a policy for future road naming and renaming, and included a number of similar policies from other towns and cities in Ontario, including Toronto and Amherstberg. It also recommends that the town begin the process of researching and estimating the operational costs associated with a potential name change, as well as the processes involved with local service providers in the event of a name change.

Included in the package for council are documents from 2017, the last time the prospect of changing the name of Colonization Road was brought before council, which includes a number of information points from then CBO Tyson Dennis that highlighted several personal and municipal service providers such as Service Canada, Service Ontario and the Regional Emergency Command Centre who did not foresee significant fees, if any, in the event the roads’ names changed. It did acknowledge, however, that it could not put a cost on the time that each individual would spend changing or updating their address on personal documents, identifications, services or subscriptions.

Additionally, the report recommends that the town develop a consultation process along with education information on the history and negative impacts of colonization to be included with the first 2021 tax bill, in order to both spread awareness of the impetus behind changing the name from Colonization, as well as a way for the citizens of Fort Frances to have their comments and voices heard on the name change itself.

While there was no dissent voiced to the prospect of putting together a policy for name changes or a public consultation process, the timing of the issue was again brought up. Councillor Mike Behan spoke on the recommendation and noted that while he was in agreement with both of those points, he still felt there were more pressing concerns that town administration and staff will have to deal with in the months to come.

“At our last council meeting on November 23 I was under the impression the majority of council directed that the matter of naming or renaming roads in town be pushed back by referring it to committee with no time frame attached,” Behan said.

“Yet here we are just three weeks later again discussing this issue at our very next meeting, along with a recommendation to initiate the process by undertaking research and preparing a mail out to send to residents within the timeframe of the next month or so, right smack dab in the middle of what I suspect will be a very difficult budget process for 2021. This is certainly not the timing I envisioned council’s direction to be. As I said at our November 23 meeting, I feel there are far more pressing concerns facing our community that demand the immediate and undivided attention of council and administration at this time, when we are watching our mill being demolished and while we’re in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Ultimately the resolution to approve the recommendation by the executive committee passed council, and town administration will now be tasked with carrying out the objectives set out in the report.