Residents fight to keep street unlit

TORONTO, ONTARIO - One of Toronto's last unlit streets is about to get lights, even though the residents argue they will ruin its unique rural feel.

There are no lights or sidewalks on Queensgrove Rd. in Scarborough, a wide-open street with small bungalows, sloping yards, and the odd car bound for one of its 29 houses.

“Cottage country in the city” is how Wally Kraftcheck, 69, describes it. He has lived on the street with his wife, Jeannette, for four decades.

Grant Wilson, 59, has taken part in four polls about streetlights in the 29 years he's lived on Queensgrove, located near Kingston Rd. and Warden Ave.

Nothing ever came of it.

But some residents recently learned that in 2006, the city signed an agreement with Toronto Hydro guaranteeing lighting on all city streets. The company decided it was finally time for Queensgrove to get lights during a standard electrical upgrade in the area, which just began.

Fond of the darkness, residents pushed back. Jim Bridger, 50, polled his neighbours about the plan. Twenty-four households voted against the lights, while two households wanted them. Three were impartial.

The homeowners thought they would be given a chance to make their case at a meeting with Toronto Hydro. When they arrived, however, they were asked if they wanted standard lights or upgraded ones with a granite finish.

Denise Attallah, a spokeswoman for Toronto Hydro, says the company has a legal obligation to the city to provide lights.

“Without street lighting black ice is harder to detect, there are more slips, trips and falls, crime can be affected,” she says.

Local councillor Gary Crawford Ward 36, Scarborough Southwest said he advocated strongly on the residents' behalf in discussions with Toronto Hydro.

“Our lawyers said, unfortunately, if they want to do it, they can do it, and there's very little that the city can do,” he said.

Evelyn and Don Kidd, both 83, are in the minority. Every time they turn their car onto Queensgrove at night, Don flicks on his high beams — so he doesn't hit dog-walkers, he says. “It just seems silly not to have street lights,” his wife adds.

But their neighbours say they have never had a problem. “I don't see it as a safety issue whatsoever,” says Jeannette Kraftcheck.

“It's quite a shock,” she says. “Been here so long, I'd hate to see it really change.”

The $1.9 million project has already begun. Residents do not know how much of money will be spent on the new Queensgrove's streetlights.

“How do they find the money for something like this that has been and will continue to be opposed by the residents?” Wilson asks.

Queensgrove Rd. has not yet been touched. The entire project is slated for completion by October.


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