Wanted, a new direction in council says reader

The mire gets deeper. On September 26, Saugeen Shores council voted to ask staff to prepare a by-law declaring – as surplus property – the location where the future Cedar Crescent Village (CCV) will be built on the Main beach at Port Elgin, a commercial development to be located on, and a little beyond, the former site of the steam train and mini golf course.

The by-law is due to be passed by council on October 11, SIX days before the municipal elections. This seems rushed and suggests current council is attempting to prevent any change in direction by the new council.

The property was declared surplus because of the length of the lease – 50 years (criticized as excessively long). This means that under the by-law governing surplus properties and how they are sold, part of the Main beach could, in fact, be sold. Senior management and current council say there is no intention of selling but provide no guarantee that this could not happen in the future. If the commercial development fails, the municipality, short of taking charge itself, could look for a new lease holder. Or, the project having failed, a buyer.

In the interim, council will have succeeded in bookending the sandy beach in Port Elgin with an industrial-ugly commercial development at the north end and a 19th century looking, armory-type building containing public washrooms at the south end; quite an alternative to what could have been a landscaped public park, with beds and corridors of native beach grasses, shrubs and trees, a large children’s play area, small shelters for family picnics and boardwalks and pathways for idle strolling.

Council has also failed the public in other ways: by not protecting the historic character of our two towns, by commercializing the beach and by failing to provide a comprehensive plan for shaping development. The zoning provided in the Official Plan is not enough to make our towns desirable places to live. Our 19th century streetscapes and historic areas of town need protection, as do our trees (on both municipal and private property) and interior woodlands. And to soften the Highway 21 commercial corridor we should require private and corporate businesses to landscape their properties with buffers of trees and shrubs, and install corridors or islands of plants in large parking lots to break up expanses of paving. And, finally, we should also require corporate businesses to minimize iconic architecture to fit better with the original character of our communities.

This could all be done if we had a change in the direction of council … and visionary leadership.

Peter Storck