CCV Interior Perspective

Cedar Crescent Village, interior perspective. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

Hub Staff

The special Committee of Whole meeting December 16 in the Rotary Hall concerning the Port Elgin waterfront and Cedar Crescent Village development, proposed on the site of the former Station and mini putt, began with Councillor Jami Smith declaring with, "great anguish" and "an abundance of caution," a pecuniary interest under the advisement of Integrity Commissioner Harold Elston.

Smith's husband is part owner of the Social Athletics of Saugeen Shores (SASS) who operates the Port Elgin Beach Volleyball League. Three weeks ago SASS made a formal request to be eligible for lease of "any new or repositioned beach volleyball courts," said Smith.

"Though this is seemingly a trivial conflict, I cannot risk jeopardizing due process," she said.

"Thus far, including my participation in the Waterfront Development Ad Hoc Committee, I have operated with the utmost integrity," Smith assured listeners.


A total of 11 speakers took advantage of the opportunity to speak during the Open Forum portion of the evening which had been extended 15 minutes to a total of 30 minutes.

Speakers included project proponents, neighbouring business owners, members of the Port Elgin Beach Preservers (PEBP) and Saugeen Shores ratepayers with some coming out in favour of the project, some speaking against, and some neutral but with concerns.

Some of the concerns conveyed included those of an environmental, logistical, locational, esthetical, and financial nature.


The first of three delegations was PEBP's Patricia Frank. In a summary presented to Saugeen Shores Council, Frank's delegation made mention of an online petition that has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures, as well as feedback from Melissa Hughes, a lifelong summer resident to Saugeen Shores who holds a Masters of Science Degree in Environmental Sustainability and who shared information regarding the ecologically rich ecosystem that is the Port Elgin waterfront, Saugeen Shores' "most precious natural resource."

Concerns included the multi-level nature of the buildings proposed, "invasive" winterization techniques, walkable infrastructure, as well as the potential environmental consequences of not only the construction process but also the year round use of the proposed development.

Speaking on behalf of Hughes, Frank recommended that the project remain within the footprint of the current development, that it be placed a "responsible distance from the shoreline," and that sand management and flood mitigation efforts take place.

"While sustainable tourism to the beach area of Port Elgin is welcomed and supported, it must be accompanied by a shoreline recovery and maintenance strategy, and a plan that mitigates the impacts of human interference in the natural ecosystems housed by the beach and the lake," said Frank, suggesting that the development be put on hold "until proper studies have been done and due diligence is met."

Because clauses in the online petition were prefaced with "We, citizens of Saugeen Shores," Councillor Cheryl Grace queried Frank on the location of signatories. While Frank didn't have the information with her, she confirmed she had done an analysis and said that by her recollection, approximately 1,000 signatories were residents of Saugeen Shores, another 3,500 came from the Guelph, Kitchener and Hamilton area, another 300 or 400 were from Michigan and other signatures came from people as far away as Ireland and Israel.

Grace acknowledged that she hadn't looked at all of the signatures but had taken a random snapshot, analyzing a total of nine pages containing 441 signatures. Of those, Grace said 19% (83) were from Saugeen Shores, 5% (24) were from Bruce and Grey counties other than Saugeen Shores, 53% (237) came from other Canadian locations in nine provinces, 21% (93) were from 30 states within the US and .01% (four) were from other locations around the world including the UK, Greenland and France.

Frank clarified that if someone owns a cottage in Saugeen Shores but lives in Hamilton, their signature would reflect Hamilton and offered to provide Grace and members of Council with more details.

As a Board member for the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA), Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt took the opportunity to clarify concerns around a perceived conflict of interest and said that he isn't involved in any of the review or decision making processes around building permits.

"[SVCA staff] follow and enact policy and board members provide governance," said Myatt.

He also clarified that SVCA staff operate under "very stringent" guidelines under the 1990 Conservation Authorities Act.

Mayor Charbonneau confirmed that any construction that happens within the regulated area of the Conservation Authority must comply with SVCA guidelines.

The second delegation was Port Elgin resident Mike McDowell who spoke in support of the project. McDowell said he chose to speak to council to ensure that the whole of Port Elgin was represented.

McDowell expressed a love of the community and said he believes the proposal takes into consideration the fact that the Port Elgin waterfront belongs to everyone. "There is no one or right way to enjoy the beach," he said. "This project does not take away the classic swimming and sun-bathing experience, it just adds more to the waterfront area."

McDowell said that the Cedar Crescent Village "is designed with offerings to appeal to a variety of people that both live and visit the town" including amenities for boaters, programs for children, recreational services, public spaces, and event spaces.

McDowell read comments from a Facebook group whose members are in support of the project. One such comment read, "there is no choice but to revitalize or ignore, I choose the former." Another commenter said they envisioned outdoor skating with the family on a clear sunny winter day. A third commended a "forward thinking" design that puts people ahead of cars, connects the development with the harbour, and celebrated the fact that the RFP process produced a local group.

"Myself and so many others share the opinion that this will make Port Elgin better," said McDowell.

The third final delegation was Melanie Reist and suggested that rather than protecting their natural resource, this plan would do the opposite "by covering it with buildings and concrete at great cost and disruption to this environmentally sensitive eco system."

Reist went on to suggest that opponents to the project and their concerns have not been heard and that the Town "is looking to a private public partnership as an easy way to solve [the problem of the Port Elgin beach] rather than having to invest in this most unique asset."

"The beach is worth taking the time, it is worth doing things properly and getting the right plan," concluded Reist.


In his presentation to Council, project proponent Pier Donnini reiterated he and his partners' vision for the project with a goal of "reclaiming an under utilized asset so that we could all enjoy it" with minimal financial impact to tax payers.

Guided by the Waterfront Master Plan (WMP) and a "long and exhausted public consultation," Donnini said the goal was "creating a destination where people could have experiences, include activities that made sense, and design it to fit."

Many of the aspects of the project have remained the same since Donnini's original presentation to Council July 22, and follow up presentation September 3, including a four season restaurant, an event hall, a kids activity centre, and a beach market building designed to expand upon the weekly Beach Market.

A harbour store to serve the boating community will include meals to go, a tuck shop, and beach related rentals. A staffed tourism office and four season bathroom facility are also planned. "The tourism office, the staff for the tourism office, the bathroom structure and year round maintenance of the structure will all have no financial impact on the municipality," assured Donnini.

Leasable, limited and recreational related commercial space will be offered to retailers offering "products and services that fit with the recreational marina waterfront setting."

An open, public, multi use square, "keeping with our goal to create a privately operated and funded public space" aims to create a centre piece for community activities including volleyball, a summer music festival, art festivals, fundraisers, winter carnivals and ice skating. "Frankly, we haven't imagined all the activities the space is suited for and we'll count on our community to help us with that," said Donnini.

An electric, multi surface and easy to operate train is also planned.


GM Diemert Architect Inc's Grant Diemert was next to speak and said Cedar Crescent Village was designed "with careful attention to the local environment and to the spaces around it."

The parking area is located on the former mini putt to the east of the project. The buildings serve as protection from potential storms blowing in off the lake in the wintertime.

The buildings also mediate between the square itself and the surrounding environment. Two storey structures are located along the west side of the project and step down to single story as they approach the residential properties on the other side of Harbour Street with the tallest aspect being a publicly accessible sunset terrace overlooking the harbour.

The buildings as well as a dining terrace and the sunset terrace are all wheelchair accessible and access points are interconnected through the square, to the local harbour, and to key points related to the existing driving and pedestrian routes.

Measures have been taken to help contain sound generated from the event space to that part of the building.


Saugeen Shores CAO David Smith said the Cedar Crescent Village proposal was in response to the Town's Request for Proposal (RFP) "to advance the Strategic Plan, the Waterfront Master Plan and to revitalize, in a much needed way, the Port Elgin Main Beach area."

Smith explained that due to the length of the lease, as well as the value, importance, and location of the proposal, "a tremendous amount of effort" had gone into creating something that protects the town and fairly allows the project to proceed.

Simply stated, the lease, for the use of the land for a period of time, took months to negotiate, and used a number of Town resources including lawyers, specialists, and consultants. "Of course we recognize the importance of the waterfront, which is why the lease in itself is so rebust," said Smith.

Smith clarified that the business part of Cedar Crescent Village is not the Town's to operate. "We are not partners and we don't run the business. We don't make a profit and we don't sustain a loss," he said, further explaining that they wanted the business to succeed. "We want it to deliver all of the benefits in the proposal and adhere to the requirements of the lease," Smith said.

The proponents will pay taxes set by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which will more than pay for any snow clearing costs, he explained. The proponents will pay development charges and building permit fees and they're responsible for costs incurred through construction, ongoing maintenance, and the operation of the project. Rent is an estimated value of $82,500, said Smith, comparing it to the $5,000 paid by the former tenants of the Station and mini putt property.

For a period of 15 years, in lieu of the rental fee, project proponents will provide a suite of extra services such as year round washrooms, a staffed tourism office, and community group space. During construction, the proponents will pay rent, an amount to be held by the Town and be used "at our discretion" for Port Elgin Main Beach improvements, said Smith.

The services in lieu are to be reviewed every five years and after 15 years the Town can opt out of the services in lieu arrangement and instead collect rent.

"The proponent has a lot of responsibilities, and so they should," continued Smith. "They need to obtain permits and approvals for construction, including from the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, they need to adhere to the lease provisions which are numerous, they need to provide insurance, they need to adhere to permitted uses, and critically, in my opinion, they need to maintain the site in a like new condition."

The Town maintains control over the final design, the construction schedule, exterior signage, sub lease approvals and future changes to the buildings. "There are many checks and balances to insure residents and tourists are well served by the revitalization but not so many that they hamstring the proponents' success," said Smith.

Another feature Smith mentioned was that the lease has an end date. "Our other leases don't have that and that oversight has caused our community much grief," said Smith, adding that the Town also, after 20 years, has the option to buy out the proponent and arbitrarily end the lease but acknowledged that that would be a costly endeavour.


Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt said one of the nice features of the development is that it offers more towel space because volleyball courts are being moved off the beach and onto the development, and asked if SASS would be allocated the same amount of court time they currently pay for and whether the rates would be comparable.

Donnini responded and said that while they haven't yet spoken with SASS, his goal is to have people come to the beach so "it would be against my own interests to create hurdles and barriers" to groups such as SASS.

Myatt also questioned the 8% salt content for snow removal, to which Smith said that is something that could be looked at by the Municipal Innovation Council. Myatt also queried access to current facilities such as the Harbourlite Restaurant and the pavilion. Donnini said the new parking would be more efficient and that the development was purposefully designed as open concept to allow easy access and flow through.

Councillor Cheryl Grace remarked that some legitimate concerns had been raised around the environment and asked whether any kind of analysis had been done or was available as to the effects the added traffic and parking might have. CAO Smith said he could do some research and follow up.

Councillor Kristan Shrider questioned whether the volleyball courts within the development were public space. CAO Smith said it was publicly accessible but would be controlled and operated by the proponent. Shrider also questioned whether that space was included in the lease considerations with Smith responding that the lease rate was based on the "building proper" rather than giving the proponents exclusive rights to the outdoor space as was the case with The Station and adjacent mini putt.

Shrider also asked about community feedback and how it relates to the ad hoc committee report. Charbonneau explained that the final meeting of the ad hoc committee was held in September so any reports would only include feedback prior to that date.

Councillor John Rich asked for clarity on the events portion of the facility. Donnini explained that the event space aids in the facility's financial viability while offering a space for people to come together.

Rich also wondered about the proponents' exit strategy. Donnini said he loves what he does and as such doesn't need an exit strategy.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau asked whether Saugeen Shores had any current leases at or in excess of 50 years. Smith confirmed that the Town has had a number of 25 year leases and one, the Port Elgin Curling Club, 100 year lease.


Prior to the vote, each member of Council was given an opportunity to share their thoughts on the project.


Deputy Mayor Don Matheson said that while everyone may not share the same opinion, everyone wants what is best for the community. Matheson remarked on the polarization that has occurred with this and past projects such as the splash pad at North Shore Park, and credited misinformation and a lack of understanding as to the municipal process.

Matheson suggested that while being open to questions and criticism is part of the job as municipal councillors, attacking councillors' integrity "goes too far."

He came to the defence of Town staff and further clarified that details of the lease could not have been discussed while negotiations were taking place. "When discussions like this take place, we must follow the rules and guidelines of the Municipal Act," explained Matheson.

Matheson said the investors are from Saugeen Shores, have lived and owned successful businesses "for many years" and want what's best for the community.

Concerning the Waterfront Master Plan (WMP), Matheson characterized it as a plan and "just an outline" and said the beach is a "tired old beach" that needs a facelift, needs to be modernized to provide for everyone "not just today but for the next 50 years or more."

Matheson made the assurance that Council has listened to everyone on this development and said he believes Cedar Crescent Village will bring more people to the Port Elgin Main Beach and to the community. "It will help existing businesses and if you, the people of Saugeen Shores, give it an unbiased chance, you will appreciate the Cedar Crescent Village and what it has to offer," he said.


Councillor Kristan Shrider thanked everyone for their correspondence and said that they heard from those in favour of the proposal, those against, "and everything in between."

Shrider said Council's position and responsibility is not one to be taken lightly and said she welcomes the diversity of opinion, allowing Council to make informed decisions.

"One common opinion statement for years, even prior to this development, has been 'We need improvement at the waterfront,'" said Shrider. While she acknowledged reservations, Shrider said, "I believe this proposal is in line with what the Strategic Plan, the Waterfront Master Plan and the RFP outlines. Is it perfect? No. I cannot think of a development that is perfect at the conceptual design stage," she said.

Shrider went on to say that she has confidence that the Town staff, lawyers, and developers will negotiate and create a plan for the waterfront that the community will be proud of for many years.

"I thank the developers and the investors in wanting to partner with the community for four season activity down at our waterfront. I trust you will own an asset on our asset that will be a benefit for everyone," she said.


Councillor John Rich said that if these decisions were easy, there would hardly be any point to having elected officials and said that there are invariably those for and those against these decisions.

Rich said that the biggest obstacle to projects is money, "especially if you have a pool and a sports complex in the future and a recently built police station to pay for," he said.

"My vision wasn't to do nothing, I wanted to bring some 'Yes' to the council table and to help support people who reached into their pockets to invest in our community and try and make it better," said Rich.

"It's easy to cut apart someone else's ideas but hard to come up with your own, and even harder to find a group of investors to support you," continued Rich, adding that this is a project he will support provided it abides by the environmental regulations and building requirements set out by the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority and the Town's Building and Planning Department.


Councillor Matt Carr said it has been an overwhelming project. He echoed others' sentiments that he appreciated the work conducted by Town staff throughout the process and said that the negative nature of some of the feedback has been a learning experience.

"At the end of the day I think we all have to remember that we as councillors are here to represent you, we are taking all your input into consideration but we do have to look forward to what we want this town to be as we are growing," he said.

Carr said that as the project moves forward, there are aspects he still does not agree with but admitted he isn't as against it as he was when it was first presented.

"I do want everybody to be assured that we're taking all this information into consideration and that we will make the right decision and this will resolve the proper way, and hopefully the majority will be happy," said Carr. "That's all that we can ask for," he said.


Vice-Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt said that it's been a difficult process and he only hopes that should the project move forward, the community has an opportunity to come together and heal.

Myatt read the mission statement from the WMP that was created in 2013, "to enhance the quality of life for Saugeen Shores residents and visitors through the development of a Saugeen Shores Waterfront Master Plan." Myatt said the Plan took three years to prepare and that those involved did a "remarkable job."

He characterized the Plan as a living document, a guiding document, and referenced a follow up document, the Port Elgin Waterfront Design Concept and Budget Allotment from 2014. Myatt said that those who participated in the creation of the report concluded there were many opportunities for the waterfront. He read from an abbreviated list and asked everyone to consider how the vision established aligns with the development being proposed: a four season destination, family oriented, upgraded facilities, winter ice skating, evening entertainment, dining, night life opportunities, active transportation facilities, accessible trail linkages and parking lot reorganization.

Myatt listed many aspects of the project that he liked including the train, a non competition clause to protect the Harbourlite Restaurant, trail access, increased towel space and a safer parking area. He said he liked the fact that it's creating year round opportunities and suggested that the long term lease was warranted with such a large investment.

In closing Myatt again remarked on how difficult the process has been and said in his 41 years in government and community service, he had never experienced a proposal that has created such divide in the community. "I personally have been overwhelmed by that, it's not a nice feeling," he said.


Councillor Cheryl Grace took the opportunity to ensure citizens that the process has been done and will continue to be done legally, counter to suggestions made by constituents and in the media. "It's important for our citizens to understand that this decision will be made legally and without corruption," she said.

She too explained her position and responsibilities as a member of the SVCA board and quoted a response from Harold Elston, Integrity Commissioner, ensuring no conflict.

Grace also addressed accusations that had been made around closed meetings and referenced regulations and procedure in the Ontario Municipal Act, providing a detailed account of what clauses within the act were adhered to for meetings concerning the Port Elgin waterfront.

On the topic of environmental protections, Grace paraphrased a clause of the lease that ensures the proponent must comply with all environmental laws, and remove any contaminants if required by environmental authority or at the request of the Town, including that in the soil or in the water.

She also spoke to the services in lieu of rent and said she believes the arrangement allows the municipality to save significant capital costs. "I do appreciate the collaborative approach that this section of the lease provides," said Grace.

Grace said she hopes that after reading the lease, members of the public can see that there are many protections and benefits for Saugeen Shores. "The proponents, the municipality and Council listened, and are continuing to listen to people's concerns, and have made significant changes to the original proposed lease and design," she said, adding that she believes the municipality's site plan control process will result in a final design which is complimentary to the Port Elgin beach.

"I believe this project will provide many public benefits that the municipality could never afford to provide," she said.


Councillor Dave Myette also took the opportunity to address a code of conduct complaint that had been brought to the Integrity Commissioner and offered a quote from Elston's final report that found no evidence of conduct contrary to the code.

Myette said he has heard from many constituents concerning the proposed project, some opposed and some in support of the development, and applauded the often sentimental nature of the feedback.

"But the world doesn't stay the same," said Myette and quoted John F. Kennedy. "Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future," he said.

"The generation of today have different wants and expectations and they will grow up with a whole new set of memories and experiences to cherish," continued Myette. "We cannot and should not try to preserve our past as the best thing for their future."

Myette went on to say that he believes the Cedar Crescent Village proposal will serve as a catalyst to create "new, wonderful, cherished memories" for generations now and into the future and that it fulfills the wants and needs, and has built in protections for Saugeen Shores. He said that the unknowns of the future are not a reason to stay stagnant or adopt a "wait and see" policy.


Mayor Luke Charbonneau took listeners on a trip down memory lane and shared times of his youth and experiences at the Port Elgin waterfront including concerts, carnivals, ice cream, and the train.

Charbonneau said when he started in municipal politics he was frustrated that so little was being done to invest in the waterfront and chose to run for Deputy Mayor in 2010 because of his desire to focus on the need to do more. He offered an account of the history of the Waterfront Ad Hoc Committee, the development of the WMP and Council allocating dollars toward development.

The mayor then brought us to 2019, through the RFP process, the memorandum of understanding and lease development process. "Now that we have reached the stage of considering those detailed plans, I find myself thinking a lot about the extended process that has brought us to this point," said Charbonneau. "It’s easy sometimes to think of important community decisions in isolation rather than as part of a continuum where one decision follows upon another based upon plans that many of our neighbours have spent years in developing," he said.

Charbonneau said he is proud to have been a part of the process and believes the lease agreement to be an "appropriate frame work by which to achieve the revitalization of the north end of Port Elgin's Main Beach," he said.

"It will update and clean-up the waterfront, providing amenities that will serve our growing community’s residents and visitors in equal measure," said Charbonneau. "The proposed lease sets out a structure that will help to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the public-private partnership while also providing multiple levels of protection for the municipality and its tax payers for today and for the future," he said.

See also: Committee of Whole approves in principle waterfront lease

To watch the meeting in its entirety, visit

To view the full size project images, visit

To view the Waterfront Revitalization Project Land Lease as proposed December 16, visit

CCV SouthPerspective

Cedar Crescent Village, south perspective. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

CCV Mill St View

Cedar Crescent Village, view from Mill Street. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

CCV East Perspective

Cedar Crescent Village, east perspective. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

CCV Enlarged Plan

Cedar Crescent Village, enlarged plan. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

CCV Ground Level

Cedar Crescent Village, ground level. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.

CCV Second Level

Cedar Crescent Village, second level. GM Diemert Architect Inc image.