Councilor opposed to Beach development design presents an articulate argument.

At Monday night’s meeting (Jan.10), Saugeen Shores Council voted 6 – 2 in favour of supporting the recommendation to enter into the Site Works and Servicing Agreement with what has been a three-year on-going contentious Cedar Crescent Village (CCV) development for Port Elgin’s Main Beach.

Under the recommendation, “Council delegate approval of the matters outlined in the Site Works and Servicing Agreement to the Director of Infrastructure and Development Services subject to the following: any approvals exercised under the delegated authority shall be in general conformity with the site plan and be compliant with the Zoning By-law or be minor in nature, be compliant with the Zoning By-law and be limited to matters related to the pavilion, engineering, signage, lighting, and accessibility. In exercising such authority the Director shall consult with appropriate committees and persons competent in regards to the specific matters; and

That Council instruct staff to prepare a schedule and cost estimate for the consultation related to parking and landscaping matters in the waterfront area and that following Council approval of the consultation schedule and cost estimate shall design the parking and landscaping in accordance with the consultation schedule and shall bring the design back to Council for consideration; and that Council approve the amending Lease Agreement.”

The two Councillors who opposed going forward with the recommendation were Matt Carr and Councillor Cheryl Grace.

Grace gave an articulate argument as to why she could not support the recommendation and, given her eloquent dissertion, it is here in its entirety.

“In December 2019, I voted to approve the lease for this development. I supported a development on the Port Elgin Main Beach that offered year-round amenities – a classic lakeside restaurant, a covered splash pad and skating rink, a year-round marketplace, a pavilion, a store for harbour users and more public restrooms.  i understand that, to ensure the financial feasibility of the investment, other commercial tenants may be necessary.

In assessing whether to approve the plan and design before us tonight, I thought back to my own waterfront visits to communities that had charm and character.  Some of them two-story, housing unique shops and cafes that provided activities in inclement weather or shoulder seasons.  I believe that such assets can be valuable for communities.

Residents have expressed concerns about the impact on the environment. The development has been significantly moved back from the dynamic beach and Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority has confirmed that an Environmental Impact Study was not required, provided appropriate Sediment and Erosion Control study was undertaken to protect fish habitat.  This requirement is included in the Site Plan before us tonight.  Furthermore, as the town advances its work on adjacent lands, it will also require appropriate Sediment and Erosion Control there to ensure storm water quality and protection of fish habitat.

Another environmental protect clause in the agreement requires that the lessee installs temporary fencing or otherwise protect all trees, shrubs and other vegetation to be retained.

The proposed site is not a pristeen undisturbed area. The location was the site of train tracks, pavement, a former mini-golf course and a sand parking lot that has been subject to motorized vehicles for decades.  Regarding parking, I have asked staff to use the most environmentally sustainable materials that are possible.  As you have heard tonight, the town will be conducting broad public consultation in its parking area design.

One of the town’s responsibilities outlined in the lease is to ensure the project supports the overall character of the design. In my opinion, the design of the project presented is not consistent with the coastal character vision that I believe most residents want for Saugeen Shores.  Since I was first elected to Council, I have consistently argued that our municipality must strive to preserve our lakeside character and charm.  I successfully advocated for a cottage street study be included in the 2022 budget so we can best determine how best to retain the character of our cottage areas while making necessary infrastructure improvements.

I believe we can have growth and development without sacrificing what makes Saugeen Shores a special and beloved destination, either for tourists or those who want to make our town their forever home.  I participated in the design group organized by the proponent and I had hoped that the vision presented by some participants, including me, would be different from what we see in tonight’s plan.

The Architectural Brief presented in this report, argues that coastal visions throughout North America are varied and that it’s difficult to define what coastal vision means.  There are industrial flavoured developments that may work in certain North American coastal areas. In my opinion that doesn’t work for Saugeen Shores.

I also have concerns about the references to “carny lane retail outlets” and the carnival reference in the Architectural Brief.  The Brief indicates that the vision presented by the community representatives’ group would ideally “express the freedom and hedonistic temptations of the carnival as well as the stability and organizational structure of the seaside neo-Georgian architecture”.  Despite some survey respondents’ references to by-gone beach carnivals, I remember that as a little girl I had a treasured prize that I won one night.  I believe the majority of residents do not want a carnival beach-side atmosphere like the references in the report to the Santa Monica Pier and locations in Florida, Grand Bend or Sauble Beach.

Some residents have argued that the proposed development will unfairly obstruct the view of adjacent property owners.  I believe that if this development were appealed to the Province based on obstruction of homeowners’ views, that appeal would not be successful.  This is public land and private homeowners do not own the view regardless that their own view may be negatively affected.  However, I believe the municipality has a duty to preserve a public vista that is as attractive as possible.  In my opinion, this design does not fulfill that duty either from the west or the east.

I recognize and greatly appreciate the commitment of the investors’ corporation that represents the lessees, the proposed lease and their investing in our community in the face of many obstacles.   I also applaud the hard work of our staff in those negotiations at this time.  The opportunity for our municipality to partner with a private entity to advance municipal goals is a worthy one.

My ideal outcome here would be to ask the lessees to submit a different design which reflects the coastal vision that I have heard residents ask for since the inception of this project.  If I were to give you a vision that I have mentioned several times since the fall of 2019, I would suggest a design similar to the Cobble Beach development north of Owen Sound with Nantucket design elements of cedar shake, gable windows and soft colours.  I believe this reflects the preferences of many residents.

This is a legacy project for the ages and I believe we must get this design right. That said, I cannot vote in favour of tonight’s recommendation because to do so would indicate I approve of the design as presented.”