Napanee Council to play the (street) name game

Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

What’s in a name? Would a rose smell as sweet if it went by any other name? What about a street? Napanee’s Town Council is about to find out.

At its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, Council will receive a Growth and Expansion Street Naming Policy Updating Report, asking Council to direct staff to begin updating the Town’s Street Naming Policy and Procedure.

In the report, Town staff propose to give Council a draft policy update for consideration and decision. Staff would then recommend seeking public feedback and recommendations for an approved street name inventory. The report says community input in the street naming process will be critical to successfully implementing an approved naming list and notes that public consultations and engagement initiatives should be organized to gather suggestions and ensure local voices are heard in the process of soliciting street names for Council’s consideration.

The report, prepared by Michael Nobes, Napanee’s General Manager of Growth and Expansion Services, states that on September 21, 2023, the Town’s Heritage Committee passed a motion recommending Council review the existing Street Naming Policy and Procedure.

According to the report, the Heritage Committee would like the Town to clarify the role of the reviewing entities, which streets the policy applies to, and the role of place names in preserving local history. The committee also recommends that Council direct the creation of a list of pre-approved names to share with developers, “which could include, but not be limited to, local veterans, community builders, and persons, landmarks and events of significance” and further consider creating a process to allow for public suggestions of new street names on an ongoing basis, “to ensure broad perspectives can be reflected.”

Staff have considered undertaking a comprehensive review of the Town’s Street Naming Policy, according to the report, “to align with current national discussions regarding place naming and to implement an approved road name inventory.”  The report notes that this update is intended to ensure consistency, accuracy, and cultural sensitivity in street naming practices, while streamlining the logistics of this process. The policy also highlights street naming as a critical aspect of community identity, wayfinding, and historical preservation. 

Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

The Street Naming Policy requires revision to address evolving societal values and practical considerations, according to the report. Recent national discussions about place naming have shown the need for cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in street naming practices. 

The report suggests that the policy update would include procedures for nominating municipal street names to ensure that names respect the community’s diverse cultural heritage. An “Approved Road Name Inventory” is proposed to be created to streamline the procedure by reducing administrative overhead. According to the report, a list of pre-approved street names based on historical significance, cultural relevance, and community input would be a valuable resource for developers, planners, and other stakeholders. 

At the Heritage Committee’s September 21, 2023 meeting, Town Clerk Jessica Walters gave the committee a summary of the current street naming policy and a request for comment from the Growth and Expansion staff. 

According to those minutes, “Committee members expressed concerns that it is not clear from the policy what the role of the Heritage Committee is, whether it is to suggest names for consideration or to research proposed names to see if there is any history attached to them.” Members also expressed concerns that past naming practices may have been inconsistently applied and perhaps the policy should be updated. 

Other committee suggestions included: 

  • creating an updated list of approved street names that have been researched and are readily available to developers, Council and reviewing staff; 
  • encouraging new subdivisions to be named around a theme, such as nature-based or historical; 
  • allowing for public input and suggestions on new names, to be reviewed by the groups listed in the current policy before being approved; and 
  • for larger subdivisions, setting a maximum number of names that can be developer-proposed, and a minimum number that must be community-proposed. 

The Heritage Committee also noted specific “names of historical interest which do not yet have a street named after them, including Cartwright, Gibbard, Davy (first Mayor), Stevenson (first Reeve), the veterans included on the new Legion mural — Maurice Waitson, Russell Vanvolkenburgh, Margaret Eileen Barrett, James White, Reginald Hearns, and Harry LeRoy Doyle — as well as more recent persons of note such as Avril Lavigne.”

Meetings of the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee can be viewed virtually (or watched afterward) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel or attended in person in Council Chambers at the Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street. Further information about Council meetings is available on the Town’s CivicWeb site.

Editorial note: Kingstonist has corrected the spelling of Reginald Hearns and Russell Vanvolkenburgh in the quoted Heritage Committee minutes above.

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