Where are today’s facts and critical data? asks reader

To the Editor:

To all, as per previous emails, letters to the editor, and comments in front of council I have simply asked for “FACTS” related to key Village concept issues so that all residents¬†can make informed decisions as to whether they support the plan or not. How effectively does the proposed development address the following concerns during the busy summer months?

  1. Will there be enough space for all to enjoy the waterfront– permanent residents, seasonal residents, and visitors?
  2. Will there be sufficient parking and access to the waterfront–for all residents and visitors?
I have reviewed all available documents made available this past week. Information provided relative to these 2 concerns is still very subjective and lacks any critical data to support the argument that these issues have been addressed.
¬† Concern —¬† developers response —Town’s response
image.pngThe developer continuously refers back the “great old times” (mid/late 50’s)¬† when the waterfront area could easily support the demands of the time. From photographs provided by the developer the beach area looks to be at least 4/5 times larger than it is now. The town population at that time was around 1600 according to census Canada–only 15% of today’s population. Today’s situation is drastically different in terms of demand and supply yet the developer continuously leads us to believe that it is not.¬†¬†
It is very apparent to all beach goers that due to high water levels and erosion the beach area (towel space) is now even much smaller than it was back in 2014 when the Waterfront plan was created.¬†¬†This is a “beach community”–¬†towel space must be the number one concern in any beach “revitalization” yet it seems the Town and Developer are happy to accept drastically reduced numbers. The only way it is even acknowledged is with the “volleyball court’ solution
  • a many thousand square meter problem is being addressed by a few hundred square meter solution
  • I personally have never seen the courts directly on the beach being used in the heat of the day when the beach is busy–just too many people on the beach–the volleyball solution in reality has no or little effect on the towel space shortage

All developer drawings still show the 2014 water levels — this is an outright misrepresentation of the present and possibly future beach situation. I have yet to see a picture being used that depicts the conditions at the main beach on a busy July/August day.¬† The town is growing, tourism dollars are being spent to bring more people to the beach, more and more people from the GTA are discovering this area as a summer vacation destination yet Council and the Developer are apparently content with “status quote” when it comes to towel space.

¬† Concern—- developers response—Town’s response¬†¬†
There was a documented 389 parking spots back in 2014. I have looked at all documents and drawings provided by the developer and town and I count about 310/320 spots after the Village has been built–please correct me if I am wrong. Taking into account town growth over last 4-5 years and the next 10-20 how will this reduced number of parking spots possibly satisfy the increasing demand? Again the answers provided are purposely subjective and lack any definitive details. Parking is at at premium and in short supply on any sunny day in July and August and most nice weekends in June and September. To say that a “level of concern” is only reached on a select number of days is simply incorrect– I challenge the town or developer to support that statement with facts. Any one who has to drive to the beach knows the reality of the situation. Additionally, I trust that there will never be reserved parking for “private function Village activities” as per the lease agreement– I would like to hear this directly from both the town and developer in a public forum
Based on information provided up to this date my only conclusion at this time is that a statement made during any earlier AD HOC committee meeting sums up the situation very accurately:
The main Port Elgin Beach is going to be a very busy place — “those who don’t like it can go somewhere else”.

The question is where? All other beaches in the area suffer from the same problem–limited/shrinking supply of towel space vs growing demand. SADLY, unless these 2 concerns are addressed in a much more effective and definitive way, the traditional beach goers–“those who want to be on the beach and enjoy the simplicity of what it offers” are at risk of being¬† displaced by “those who want to be at the beach and need commercialization to enjoy the experience “. An atmosphere of competition and EXCLUSION¬†at the waterfront will replace the one of¬†INCLUSION¬†that we all share now.

I could take care of myself and not speak out –simply get up as early as needed during the busy times to get my parking spot(s) and place on the beach for friends and family–but that is not what “community” is all about. It will be very unfortunate if the proposed changes result in families, who simply want to be ON THE BEACH, getting turned away due to lack of space.
I challenge the Mayor and Council to have definitive solutions to the towel space and parking concerns before any development¬†proposal approvals are approved. Solutions supported by FACTS–not opinion.¬†These problems are real, significant, and effect all residents.¬†They were an issue before the Village concept was introduced and it has not resolved them in any way–if anything it will make them worse, much worse.¬†
In closing, I strongly support revitalization of the beach area but it must meet the needs of those who presently enjoy the beach (as it is) and those who want more commercialization. It can be done! The needs of one group cannot be sacrificed for the needs of another. Growth of “off-season business” cannot be at the expense of the enjoyment of the beach area during the traditional summer months. All options available to increase towel space and parking must be a priority for any successful proposal –status quote is not nearly enough.¬† ¬†¬†
Council must only support a Waterfront Development Proposal that is INCLUSIVE to all resident needs– the solution should bring the town together — not tear it apart!!¬†
Paul Lewko