SRA wants more supportive zoning Bylaws
by Sandy Lindsay

February 10, 2016

Town Council

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Jim Henning, President of Southampton Residents Association (SRA), brought an outline of the group's current projects and concerns to the Saugeen Shores Town Council meeting on February 8th.

According to Henning, the primary concern of the SRA is water quality of Lake Huron.  He told Council that the group had held a 'Chantry Family Fun Day' last year and will hold the event again during the upcoming summer. The event combined family fun activities in addition to being a membership drive for the SRA. 

"This year," said Henning, "we will have an educational environmental program with children and parents involved centered on a recycling theme and hope to possibly work with the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club."  Guest speaker at the event will be Shannon Wood of the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) who will discuss the Saugeen River.

Henning went on to tell Council that the SRA's second most important issue is " ... to preserve and enhance the unique character of Southampton as it grows and develops according to the 2009 Bruce County 'Saugeen Shores Guidelines'.  "We were hoping that these guidelines would be incorporated into the Zoning Bylaw and Site Plans Agreements, but they continue to be ignored," he said.

In Southampton, Henning said that the issue of traffic in the area of the tennis courts and beach access streets and lanes was a concern and that the former Director of Public Works, Stu Doyle, was considering option to slow down traffic.  Since Doyle's resignation from office, Henningn said the SRA is concerned that  "...his successor follows up on this matter." 

Henning also pointed out that several businesses in Southampton and Port Elgin have been  "... vacant for a number of years and a number of aging business owners who are, or soon will be, looking for an exit strategy."  He said that the proposed revisions to the Zoning Bylaw could do much more to support the objective of  "supporting healthy and vibrant downtowns in Port Elgin and Southampton" as stated in the Town's Official Plan. 

Another development objective in the Official Plan said Henning is  "To encourage highway commercial  developments that do not adversely affect the activities contained in the downtown core designation."

"As an example of this, it is unfortunate that the drugstore in Southampton moved out to the highway.  This is taking the focal point of the community away and eviscerating High Street ... that could be the start of a bad trend and now there are worries that perhaps the Post Office may move in the same direction.  If another financial institution came into town, the preference would be to have it on High Street rather than out on the Highway.  So, that core of shaping development in this area is controlling and getting the uses right and minimizing the overlap so that those with development ideas know where they should be going."

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"Never forget that you (Council) are representing the great silent majority (according to former Mississauga Mayor, Hazel McCallion)," said Henning.

Some staff and Council members want to see uniformity throughout the municipality," Henning added, "but other municipalities successfully encourage diversity through development Bylaws and guidelines.  In this way, they shape development and provide a foundation for more vibrant tourist industry."

"I would like Council to direct staff to consider how the zoning Bylaw could better protect the downtown cores in both Port Elgin and Southampton as focal points for the community by revisiting the allowed uses in both," said Henning.  "I hope that that could be done so Council would have a way of seeing what could be done, listen to staff what should not be done and then ... do the right decision.

Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber asked if the SRA had a 'top three list' or a list of priorities or a first thing to try for the downtown. 

"In our view, the first thing is to control uses to avoid duplication," said Henning.

Huber explained that Council cannot tell a business where to locate.  "As much as I was saddened to see the drugstore leave, I can't begrudge the drugstore making that decision because I would rather have them on the highway than not have a drugstore in Southampton at all.  We did drop the ball though on the site plan.  People actually live in Port Elgin and Southampton all year round and deserve certain kinds of stores and retail opportunities ... we can't force businesses to stay in locations and sometimes the space in the downtown is simply not available.  We've done what we can anyway to improve sidewalk access to that part of town (highway)."

Councilor Cheryl Grace asked what the town could do to provide incentives for businesses in the downtown core.  "A big concern with the vitality in the downtown cores are the vacant store fronts."

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016