To the Editor:
THE BEACH VILLAGE CONTROVERSY
The process is the problem. Much discussion around the importance of the 2013 Waterfront Master Plan continues to shape conversations. It is that important.
For the last five years, stakeholders (residents and visitors using the beach) were supposed to be interviewed every year at the waterfront. Topics included their choice of building, building locations and facades. Also included were opportunities they would like to see and business opportunities they would like to see. Town staff failed to initiate this step which is clearly laid out in the Master Plan. That data, intended to shape future development, was never collected. You might ask why?
So now we have developers wanting to proceed with a plan that has excluded the very people who use the beach. Instead of developers shaping their ideas around five years of data, the process has been turned in the opposite direction.
The village plan attempts to navigate 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…..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 as future development on that location. Options to that footprint moving elsewhere were not included. Development is needed but, if data had been collected as recommended, developers would have been welcomed to make their plans around this parcel of land. And why could it not have included the only 24 gauge steam powered Train in Canada?
The process is the problem. When public land of this significance is offered to a private consortium without guidance from the very people who use it, the system is broken. Council, because they have been recently swamped with letters, e-mails and phone calls
from concerned citizens, is attempting to mollify the situation. Following the Concept Design Plan would be the correct route.