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Editor,

The process is the problem. Much discussion around the importance of the 2013 Waterfront Master Plan (WMP) continues to shape conversations. It is that important.

According to the WMP, "local tourism stakeholders, residents and visitors" were supposed to be surveyed every year at the waterfront. The survey was to "ascertain from [Saugeen Shores] customers (visitors and residents) what our Town Staff, our Visitor Information Services and local stakeholders can do to meet the visitors’ and resident’s needs with expectations" in regards to locations and buildings and their facades as well as businesses and opportunities they would like to see.

To my knowledge, this step was never initiated and the data, intended to shape future development, was never collected. So now we have developers wanting to proceed with a plan and instead of developers shaping their ideas around five years of data, the process has been impacted.

In my view, the village plan navigates away from the very reason Port Elgin has had over 100 years of tourism. Protecting the small beach should be priority number one because visitors, whether three blocks away or three hours away want the one item Mother Nature has provided, a sand beach. Proof is easy. Look at the people on the beach every day in the summer season.

Uptown businesses rely on this natural drawing card to enable them to stay open all year round.

The 2014 Waterfront Concept Design Plan designates the Station, mini putt and the flea market location as future development. Options to that footprint moving elsewhere were not included. Development is needed. If data had been collected as recommended, developers would have been welcomed to make their plans around this parcel of land.

When public land of this significance is offered to a private consortium without the recommended surveys, the process is the problem. In my view, following the Waterfront Concept Design Plan would be the correct route.

Wayne McGrath
Port Elgin

 

Editor,

Port Elgin Beach Preservers is a group of Concerned taxpayers, homeowners, cottagers and visitors that want the Port Elgin Main Beach to remain natural, beautiful and accessible. This group favours revitalization but not wholesale commercialization.

Stakeholders were not fairly and openly given an opportunity to say what they wanted to see on their waterfront. As per the 2013 Waterfront Master Plan, one of the four recommended initiatives was an annual survey asking our residents and visitors what they want at the waterfront destinations/zones in order to "ascertain from our customers (visitors and residents) what our Town Staff, our Visitor Information Services, and our local stakeholders can do to meet the visitors’ and residents’ needs with with expectations" pertaining to existing waterfront locations/buildings and their facades, businesses and opportunities they would like to see at the waterfront, visitor centre way-finding signage and building signage,hours of Operation.

Only one Bid was tendered and accepted during the 2019 Request for Proposal (RFP). The Town reserved the right to amend the timeline for the RFP and we believe the Town should re-issue the RFP in order to get more bids from other developers. Other RFPs often only receive one or two Bids, for example, the concession stand at the Plex, however this proposal will have a lasting impact on the Town and taxpayers for years to come. Revitalization of the Town’s most significant asset must be done right.

The financial risk to the town needs to be addressed. What experience do the proponents have with a development of this magnitude? The history and financial viability needs to be carefully scrutinized.

The online survey on the Town’s website was only up for two weeks. The survey was written after the proposal was on the table and the memorandum of Understanding signed, leaving many residents feeling like the survey was skewed toward this proposal. The Town survey was written with a view to obtaining the public’s views about the Cedar Crescent Village proposal, the results of which showed that 75 percent didn't consider the banquet hall extremely or very important.

A 300-person event hall/conference centre is too large. It is multi-storied and will cover thousands of square feet and will likely have an impact on beach-goers, traffic, parking, and alcohol consumption. A busy beach waterfront is not the pace for such a large meeting hall. It should not block important public view corridors (Waterfront Master Plan 2013).

Currently there is a serious shortage of retail and service staff in Saugeen Shores. Staffing issues have not been addressed.

The Ad Hoc Committee met twice. Their mandate was to review the feedback received through the community consultation phase of the Cedar Crescent Village project and make a recommendation to Council. Council is not bound by a recommendation and will use the recommendation as one input into their decision. (Page 1-Waterfront Project Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee Mandate).

At the end of the second meeting, members concluded they were unable to make a recommendation to Council until they had seen concept drawings of the project. The Ad Hoc Committee and members of Council are being asked for recommendations on a plan in the absence of appropriate drawings from which to understand what is actually being proposed. At a minimum, once there are to-scale drawings of the proposal, there should be full and robust public consultation.

The following areas need to be addressed: Communication with Saugeen First Nation, an archeological dig, environmental impact, parking needs for beachgoers and boaters, accessibility issues, noise pollution, light pollution and a traffic study.

Environmental impact is crucial.

The Town has invested $20,000 toward a Tourism Strategy being completed by the Mellor Murray Consulting firm. This report is a three year study to help officials understand the current tourism industry, with an action plan and defined roles and responsibilities. The Mellor Report will not be presented until at least October 28. Town Council shouldn't consider moving forward with this proposal before this study and report has been submitted.

Patricia Corrigan-Frank
Port Elgin Beach Preservers

 

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