The irony is not lost on Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes.
A founder of Montreal green-development and consulting firm Ecocite, Sweetnam-Holmes arrived in Nova Scotia last week to speak at the province's Power of Green Conference, which set out to discuss a society that could "eliminate waste" and "renew itself through creative adaptation."
But before he arrived, Sweetnam-Holmes was asked by the Chebucto Neighbourhood Association to speak out against the Chebucto Road widening project during his visit.
"I said, "I don't know if I want to speak. Just because it's a road widening, doesn't mean it's a bad idea,'" he says. But after independently researching it and reviewing city-planning studies, "I was flabbergasted and thought, I've got to say something."
Following his conference appearance, Sweetnam-Holmes spoke again—this time at the Bethany United Church on Joeseph Howe Drive, at an event hosted by the CNA.
"I've got nothing to gain or lose by this, but this is such a fundamental thing that you don't do, it's shocking that it's even being debated," he says. "Most major North American cities have learned that adding road capacity is a never-ending cycle of getting nowhere. Study after study has shown, it's largely a worthless track to take.
"People will change their behaviour to meet the supply. Give them more roads, and commuters change their behaviour patterns to fill them. A few years down the line, they won't have improved anything, and they've trampled over local democracy."
For residents opposed to the road-widening, the fight just became even more desperate. On September 12, city staffers presented two options to property owners and community members: Both press forward with the project and, alarmingly, both come with a deadline—people affected have been asked to settle with the city by October 31.
"Initially, the project implicated 11 properties, mostly on the south side of the street," explains CNA member Kevin Moynihan. "On September 12, "the city came back with another plan which takes a bunch of land from the north side"—an option which affects more properties, but would take less property per person.
For nine residents on the north side of the road, it was the first time their properties had been ever been implicated, giving them six weeks to make a dire decision.
"They now have to decide if they'll sell, settle, or fight the city," says Moynihan. City engineer Paul Burgess explains that, if the owners settle by the end of the October, the city can move quickly next spring and possibly begin construction by June or July.
"If we can complete the design over the winter and tender the project early in spring, we tend to get the best prices," he explains. "Contractors usually don't have a lot of work on early in the spring."
Moynihan would like the decision to be delayed so the city can conduct a study on pedestrian safety and explore other options—a Link bus, for example—and wait to observe the effect of the reconfigured Armdale Rotary.
Councillor Shelia Fougere doesn't have much faith that will happen. She says it is "one of the most frustrating situations I've found myself in since I've been on council." Council has already voted to approve the project, and Fougere doesn't sense there's much political will to reconsider.
"I feel helpless, and I've never felt like this on council before," she says. "I feel like I've let these people down."
At this point, Fougere isn't sure exactly what—if anything—she can do to intervene. "I have to consult with our legal staff." At the very least, she plans to present a roughly 1,200-signature petition to council on behalf of the CNA. "Put it this way; I have worked my ass off to try and get this thing stopped...I've seen grown men at these community meetings with tears in their eyes.
"Basically, it's falling on deaf ears."