St. Andrews West neighbours challenge impending loss of driveways

Neighbours in St. Andrews West stand outside Chris Burtenshaw's home on County Road 18 on Saturday, Aug 28, 2021. The neighbourhood has started a petition after the county starting narrowing driveways and removing one half of circular driveways while doing road reconstruction. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

ST. ANDREWS WEST – Facing the prospect of losing parts of their driveways to county construction, a St. Andrews West neighbourhood is mounting a challenge.

Resident Chris Burtenshaw says he and Vernon Julien have collected over 60 petitions and signatures from neighbours opposing the move to standardize the width of their driveways or cut off one half of horseshoe driveways.

Neighbours got together outside Burtenshaw’s home Saturday morning to speak with Cornwall Newswatch about their predicament. “I’m very happy with the amount of people who have showed up. It’s a great thing that everybody’s involved, now hopefully we can get this all straightened out. It’s not just us, it’s anywhere from Morrisburg to anywhere is going to be affected by this. Anybody who has any kind of (oversize) driveway (on a county road) they had, it’s gone and they don’t tell anybody, that’s the worst part of it. It should have been grandfathered in.”

Burtenshaw says the street work is going to be nice and the ditches are a better, safer slope but “I don’t want to wreck it,” referring to the smaller driveway, having to turn his tractor-trailer tightly and chewing up the pavement getting into a 5 meter wide driveway. “I don’t want to wreck the hard work and the money being spent. I just wished they’d (the county) understand that. I’ve got to come home. I gotta do my job,” he says. Burtenshaw has lived at 17427 County Road 18 for eight years.

Many of the residents who spoke with Cornwall Newswatch say they were notified about the construction but were never told that their driveways would be altered.

County councillors voted last week to not grandfather in the oversize or horseshoe driveways after the request was defeated by Warden Allan Armstrong after councillors had a tie vote.

James Deserres lives at 17433 and 17431 County Road 18 has a 38-foot wide driveway (11.6 meters wide) which will be squeezed to 5 meters. “I have two actual civic addresses, two legal properties. I feel like technically (they) should have grandfathered in what I had before,” he says. “We were never notified they were narrowing the driveways. The way they’ve conducted it is kind of poorly orchestrated.”

Deserres has a giant pile of gravel in his driveway while Burtenshaw has a large hole cut into the side of his.

Vernon Julien stands in the leg of his circular driveway he stands to lose as the county plans to cut it off as part of a sweeping bylaw regulating entrances to lots. Julien says he spent over $20,000 to build his driveway 10 years ago. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Vernon and Sandra Julien at 17411 County Road 18 with a farm at 17413 stand to lose one-half of their two driveways that’s been there for four decades. The two driveways were connected into a horseshoe in 2012. Vernon says he spent $20,000 on his driveway.

“They talk about safety well us backing out of the driveway is not safer than going around a circular driveway,” Sandra says. “They talk about cost to the taxpayer, well they’ve already put the access in and now they’re going to have to dig it out to ditch it. How is that cost effective. Grandfather it in and leave us alone.”

“Some of these driveways have been here 100 years and 50 years. Where’s your grandfather clause? Who gives the right to the warden to come along, who made the last decision, at a tie to say we’re taking all these driveways out,” Vernon asked.

As for the county’s claim that notices were given to residents, Vernon says they never received any notice about the driveways being cut down. “The only paper we received was the day they’re going to start the construction site and the time the construction site was done. Somebody downtown has been talking out of both sides of their mouth.”

A county report states that two horseshoe driveways will have one end cut off but neighbours say it’s more like a half dozen homes that will be affected.

As for a local business at 17460 on County Road 18, Mike Poirier says losing his circular driveway could spell disaster for his 20-year business, Mike Poirier’s Auto Care.

“If they threaten to take that out, I no longer have access to my shop. My customers don’t have access to the shop and we’re dealing with 600-plus customers. Try to explain that to my customers that they no longer have access to the shop, have to close the shop, or find another way in which is not feasible,” Poirier says.

He says the double driveway is important to separate his business and personal life. “To shut down that driveway will be a catastrophe.”

He’s waiting for a meeting with the county to review his options.

“I understand about bringing things up to code, I get that. But there has to be exceptions and there has to be options. You can’t just bulldoze over everything and then too bad you’ve got to live with it. That’s not right,” Poirier says.

The next county council meeting is Monday, Sept. 20 where the issue is expected to come up again.