Letter to the Editor: CCV amidst a global pandemic and high water level crisis??

To the Editor;

With the former train station and mini putt site nearly cleaned up, it’s easy to see the true beauty and potential of the Port Elgin main beach. Town council and staff deserve credit for their hard work under stressful conditions, though I’m skeptical the initial $15,000 estimate will hold with so much work left to do.

While the beach is temporarily returning to its natural state, the world around it has changed forever due to COVID-19. That includes the business world and the 2019 assumptions that first led council to green-light the Cedar Crescent Village development (CCV).

A slide from the JUL/19 CCV presentation:

With this global pandemic and ensuing economic meltdown, we must challenge all these assumptions even more now. To proceed as if nothing has changed would be foolish and irresponsible of the Town and Investors. Even the most stable, established businesses are under extreme stress right now. Survival is their prime concern, not expansion or new builds.

The Travel and Tourism industry is suffering the biggest hit and as a discretionary industry, business experts and industry leaders say this will continue to be impacted for quite some time. Restaurants will need to be redesigned with social distancing and decreased capacities in mind. Businesses have already adopted many innovative, efficient, cost-effective technological strategies to working from home, conferencing, retail, dining and entertainment experiences; trends that deviate from traditional and may continue beyond COVID-19. The current CCV is based on a high usage, high density, year-round business model. How much of it will still be viable or sustainable with these new trends and under forthcoming new constraints? If isn’t highly successful, the Town may indeed inherit the assets, however they’ll also inherit all of its associated liabilities.

Other outstanding challenges to the CCV development:

· environmental concerns, high water levels and significant erosion issues
· SVCA regulations
· increased traffic and parking plans
· hours of operation, noise/lighting pollution concerns
· community divide over this project remains significant
· engineering challenges to construction
· existing local businesses require focused support during COVID-19 recovery
· re-establishing public confidence and public safety as we move past COVID-19

COVID-19 is real and will impact our town, employment, and tourism for the next couple of years at least. Times have radically changed since this lease was signed. Much about our new normal is still unknown. Expert health and economic data is still evolving and long-term effects being assessed, and will be critical in guiding plans for future developments.

That said, a Force Majeure clause exists in the CCV lease and I believe a global pandemic would certainly qualify. While COVID-19 has been a life-altering experience for all, there may be a silver lining if one considers how this unforeseen experience may have prevented some costly mistakes had CCV construction already begun. This pause, while the beach is in a safe and more natural state, presents both Council and Investors with opportunity to reassess priorities for this land and everything a large-scaled commercialized entity demands.

I’m not convinced this is the right time for a large new development on such a precious piece of public land and ask that Council members each provide a detailed statement justifying their position moving forward. As a PPP on public land, every taxpayer has the right to comment, suggest, and challenge any aspect of this development. As a nearby resident, it will impact my livelihood and property 24/7/365 therefore I have an extremely vested interest in the outcome and feel justified in expressing my concerns, even more so now as we’re amidst both a global pandemic and a high lake level crisis. Until a clear path forward has been determined by the experts, I suspect a growing number of ratepayers feel it might be more prudent to consider a postponement, a substantial downsizing or cancellation of this project.


Steve Rolland