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Members and supporters of the Port Elgin Beach Preservers rallied outside Council Chambers in Port Elgin before the November 25 Committee of Whole.

Hub Staff

Close to 100 Saugeen Shores residents and cottagers demonstrated outside the Plex in Port Elgin November 25 to protest the proposed development on the Port Elgin Main Beach, in particular the proposed convention hall and sunset tower.

Holding signs that read, “Revitalize don’t Commercialize” and “Survey Says NO Banquet Hall”, protestors chanted slogans over Joni Mitchell’s cries of 'Paved Paradise.'

“We don’t want concrete on our beaches," said Jennifer Kalte who participated in the rally with her husband, mother and father, all of whom are residents of Port Elgin. “We don’t want it to look like Wasaga Beach.”

Longtime Saugeen Shores resident Russ Borden suggested that the proposal is not taking future considerations into account and added that non-local petition signatories' opinions should be taken into account. "The tourists have been coming here for years and they’re telling you they don’t want it," he said.

As of press time, over 4,300 people, both local and non-local, had signed an online petition rejecting a convention hall at the beach.

Following the demonstration, Patricia Corrigan-Frank and Dan Frank gave a joint delegation to Saugeen Shores Council on behalf of the group.

While Corrigan-Frank acknowledged the importance of revitalization at the beach, she said that changes that are made need to be the "right ones" and made "for the right reasons" and questioned whether a convention hall would be included in the plan if money wasn't part of the equation.

While project plans have not been finalized and a decision has not yet been made by Council, a convention hall has been part of past presentations for Cedar Crescent Village by project proponent Pier Donnini.

Related: Village square proposed for Port Elgin Main Beach

Waterfront public meeting well attended

Demonstrators share waterfront concerns

Corrigan-Frank suggested a phase two revitalization that adheres to the Waterfront Concept Design Plan of 2014 and online survey of July 2019, that would include a family-friendly full-service restaurant, marine shop, tourist kiosk, bike-rental, appropriate retail, market area, and a multi-use entertainment structure, with all buildings being limited to one-storey. She also commended Council on an excellent job meeting the phase one goals outlined in the Waterfront Concept Design Plan of 2014, making special mention of the splash pad, remodelled beach house, extended promenade, improved signage, landscaped path to North Shore Park and new lookout areas.

Corrigan-Frank reminded listeners that the Cedar Crescent Village was a for-profit venture with a 50 year lease proposed. “Right now our beach is free for everyone to share and enjoy and if we allow private investors to control what can or cannot be on this beachfront,” she cautioned, “we have given up our legacy for future generations."

Outside of council chambers, Dan Frank was asked if the Beach Preservers would be satisfied if the convention centre was removed from the plans. After a moment of thought, he replied, “I would think that we may well be, as long as it is kept low and it fits into the beach side area."

Following the Committee of Whole, Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau offered an assurance that negotiations are still in process and said that it’s not surprising that Council refrain from comment on active negotiations. “When those negotiations are complete, we’re definitely going to have a public conversation about it,” promised Charbonneau. “I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots from every member of Council when that time comes."

When asked to comment on a timeline, Charbonneau said the project has been in the works for six months and years before going back to the 2014 study and the 2013 Waterfront Master Plan.

“The process is coming to conclusion," Charbonneau indicated. “We’re going to make some decisions and those decisions are going to improve the waterfront for the benefit of all residents of the Town of Saugeen Shores."

Aitchison

Seasonal resident Neil Aitchison held up a sign that read, “4,400 say NO," referring to the near 4,400 local and non-local petition signatories.

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