Data is needed before Decisions are made maintains resident

“Data before decisions” was the key of Paul Lewko’s recent delegation to Saugeen Shores Town Council at its meeting of February 8th.

Lewko was referring to the proposed Cedar Crescent Village (CCV) development that has been approved for the Port Elgin Main Beach.

“If Council is not careful about the planned project, the consequence will be significant to the Beach,” said Lewko.

A large part of Lewko’s presentation focused on the parking that would be impacted by the size of the CCV.  “Approximately 170 parking spots will be lost,” he said.  “There is a significant negative impact.  Given the rising water levels, I don’t think we will ever go back to parking on the beach.”

“Also, a critical thing to look at is the Banquet facility with the proposed 250 people that may expand to 350 to 400,” he pointed out. “True numbers have to be used for true calculations.”

With new housing developments projected, more people will be drawn to the waterfront.  According to the developer, there will be 72,000 more visitors to the 7,000 sq. ft. beach area.

“We have to accommodate growth somewhere,” said Lewko.  “If we can’t accommodate parking on the beach, we are going to have to go into the neighbourhood.  We are going to have people parking on every street despite restrictions just to have access to the beach.

                            Proposed CCV development left in white

“Families on the coast will have to leave the best beach on the coast for something less,” said Lewko.  “Less beach quality, less access, less parking and less room for improvements.”

He also pointed out that both Eidt’s Grove beach and Gobles Grove have limited capacity, particularly due to the high lake levels.  “Our Port Elgin Main Beach is our Niagara Falls and our Grand Canyon and we have to make it accessible to as many people as we can.”

“You have to have the information before you make the decision,” he added.  “We are heading to an election next year, let’s give democracy a chance.  COVID is not over and I think we are all naive if we think it hasn’t had an impact on this development.”

Lewko added, “I am asking that we delay the start of this development until the end of this summer.  The whole country is trying to save small businesses and we have to do everything we can to save the small businesses at the beach.  I also don’t think we (the town) should make a decision until we have the data to support the decision.”

Deputy Mayor Don Matheson challenged Lewko asking where he arrived at the statement, “if you don’t like it go somewhere else”?  regarding the Port Elgin Beach.  Lewko pointed out that it was, in fact, a statement made by former CAO, David Smith.  Matheson also challenged Lewko on the fact that he had failed to include Southampton in his estimate of beaches.  “There are 18kms of lake front but that does not mean beach accessibility and none of the other beaches have the quality of Port Elgin Main Beach,” replied Lewko.

When Matheson asked if he had ever been to Southampton, Mayor Luke Charbonneau intervened saying that the delegation was not up for debate.   While Matheson went on to say the presentation was well informed, he asked Lewko, “… what he was hoping to achieve.  We are here to help businesses function.  Why do you not want this business to succeed and, if we delay it, it adds to charges for the developer?”

Lewko said that basically all he wanted was that “… if we are making decisions, make them based on data and are we presenting data to the public.  I am for growth at the Main beach but I just want to make sure that the consequences of this project are fully understood by all and what actually fits the beach.  If there is data that says the project will not affect the neighbourhoods and will not push people away from the beach, then we have done our due diligence.”

Councilor Dave Myette, after correcting Lewko for his pronunciation of Eidt’s Grove and Gobles Grove, said that he felt Lewko had an objective to stop the development until 2022, an election year.  “This development is going to go ahead,” said Myette. “As for the impact in the future, we can estimate and hope for the best but nobody knows the infinite result.  We can put our ducks in a row as best as we can and I think we have exhausted just about every avenue and scenario that we possibly can … I am looking forward to a site plan being approved and shovels in the ground early this spring.”

Lewko responded that “… it is about making decisions in the right order.  I believe my numbers can be validated.  I am not looking to delay things until election.  If there was a restaurant on the beach tomorrow, I would down there with a glass of wine in my hand and, if there was a dance hall, I would be there with my family enjoying it.  This is about finding something that fits in that area.  It is a finite area with finite resources and we have to be extremely careful.

Councilor Kristan Shrider said that Lewko’s presentation was “very respectable”.  “Each beach offers a different experience … we are very fortunate and the envy of other municipalities because we do have so many different experiences along our waterfront.  With regards to parking and the south end of Port Elgin Beach between Green St. and Izzard (given the Harbour Street sanitary trunk replacement and CCV project), will there be public consultation for that project and will beach parking drop off?”

New CAO Kara Van Myall reported that the work has been “… somewhat staged due to the CCV proposal … we are going to be looking at parking related to the CCV and at the same time the extension from Green Street … there will be an outreach to the public for consultation.”

Amanda Froese, Director of Public Works,  confirmed that there had been public outreach but that the project had been “… put on pause to confirm the size of the sanitary sewer due to the CCV project but that it will go ahead this summer and it will be tied into the parking … between Community Services and Engineering to put all the ideas together, with a consultant still retained … results will be coming through in July/August of this year.”

Shrider went on to ask how the projects were related to the Transportation Master Plan.  Froese explain that the Plan was an “overall guide that didn’t specifically answer parking issues with developments”.

Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt commended Lewko for the work he had put into his presentation.  He also pointed him to the Army Corps of Engineers Report regarding lake levels.  “The lake levels are expected to drop and that’s good news.  The other thing is parking is a big issue and we may not be able to replace one spot with one spot. I think it would be nice to have trail linkages and bike parking.  The parking at the Main Beach may not be equal to what we have now.  Is it possible to have additional parking in the Harbour green (Northshore Park) area with 30 or 40 spots with a shuttle?”

Director of Community Services, Jane Jagelewski, said that plans have been in consideration for expanding parking to that area.

Mayor Luke Charbonneau concluded said that there is “… still considerable work to be done on the parking issue and the CCV site plan … all public input is logged and taken seriously and staff will be coming back in the coming months with details of how we are going to re-work this entire area.”