–August 24, 2018
MY THOUGHTS REGARDING DEVELOPMENT OF OUR BEACHFRONT AND MAIN STREET
I’d like to start this dialogue by categorically debunking the MYTH created by my opponents that I am anti-development. This is an absolute untruth and was started simply because I have been asking pointed and researched questions about our Beachfront and Main Street development proposals that some wish I wouldn’t. I ask questions because I need answers in order to make an informed decision. I have always been a vocal advocate for land owner rights and development in our town. This new label of “anti-development” is oddly ironic as during my first two terms on Council I was accused of being the exact opposite in that “I was too developer friendly.” I believe it is every council member’s responsibility to ask questions to ensure smart development occurs, while protecting both the residents and community by ensuring full due diligence and following the proper processes in all cases.
I have always enjoyed a great open and respectful relationship with the development community who respect me because I recognize their need to make a profit (none of us go to work for free) while all the while balancing the needs of the community. I look for win-win solutions for both parties.
I was opposed to a development by the Levy Brothers for the beachfront as I believed it to be an unrealistic plan. However, the big difference from that plan which was to develop much of their privately owned land is that today’s proposal is for development on valuable town owned land, not part of the proposed phase one development, that fact, in my opinion has completely forsaken the best interests of the community and it’s tax paying stakeholders.
I would very much like to dispel yet another rumour that has been circulating recently in “that the town couldn’t give Beach Area 2 away in the past, but would have.” At no time were past councils going to “give away” Beach Area 2 as some have suggested. In fact, they referred to it as the Jewel of Wasaga Beach. Proposed offers for Beach Area 2 to build condos as a first phase of the development was declined as experienced council members knew the community benefits/amenities would never come to fruition as there is no money in it for the developer. That is why it is so important to get those built first. And, in that respect, today’s plan fails miserably.
When the town purchased the beachfront properties in 2015, a business plan should have been created immediately. However, this Business Plan still sits under unfinished business on the Council table while this entire beachfront venture sinks deeper in debt daily. These existing buildings and the immediate area surrounding them should have been the first phase of the development which, with thoughtful planning would have sparked privately funded organic growth in other areas including Main Street. There was no need to go beyond this area at this point in time and to make plans for privately owned lands within other areas of the beachfront or along Main Street. This has led to never before imagined division within the population of our once proud town, with fears of expropriation, poor use of town funds and lack of realistic and thoughtful planning.
HOW DID WE GET WHERE WE ARE TODAY?
Below are a couple of links to articles I have written and posted on my website previously to provide a bit of history.
Please review my post from June 27, 2017
A key point here is that the third party audit was to be conducted on FRAM Building Group Ltd. and Slokker Canada Corp (FRAM’s financial arm) not just FRAM which is who the Town has the agreement with. The preliminary but binding Letter of Intent has very preliminary details and certainly not to the expected level of detail that one might have expected to be required by the Town or by any reasonable person if they were playing with their own property and finances.
Please review the comments made in my July 9, 2018 post.
The key point here is that in response to the Request for Expression of Interest, Fram Slokker indicated that they would meet the requirements of Phase 1 that the Town was looking to complete within the next 5-7 years. They indicated that upon completion of these projects in Phase One they would expect participation in further development of lands. The Letter of Intent Council approved does not adhere to this and has put Festival Square on hold until a later date and replaces it with valuable and irreplaceable beachfront land that was not to be unlocked until later in the process after performance had been met with the Festival Square and Town Square. I have heard the excuse for this is because private land acquisition needs to occur in the Festival Area. This is not new information, this was known when FRAM submitted to the Request For Expression Of Interest but still submitted and agreed to make it phase one. The Town accepted FRAM as the preferred developer for this phase also knowing this. The terms of the initial RFEOI have changed so dramatically that they no longer resemble the original deal.
Please review the comments made in my August 3, 2018 post.
The key point here is that a preliminary Letter of Intent was made binding and delegated authority was given to three members of staff to carry out the LOI without any further input from Council Members.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER:
Following the Request for Expression of Interest put out by the town, common sense would have said the town should have reviewed the submissions and ideas, come up with the best plan possible and then conducted a proper Request for Proposal prior to selecting a preferred developer and awarding rights to a huge section of our town to one developer.
The cost to submit to a Request for Proposal is born by the developer (separates serious developers from tire kickers) and they are required to provide more in depth details of the development that far exceed the very basic and preliminary details in this now binding Letter of Intent. Serious and professional developers who respect the community expect this step. The Town already conducts Request for Proposals/Quotations for things of much lesser value such as road salt, town vehicles, supplying food for the Town’s Staff Christmas dinner and yet this step was eliminated during this process to accommodate one developer. In my opinion this constitutes a total dereliction of fiduciary duty and abuse of power.
THE PLAN AS IT LOOKS TODAY:
You may recognize the picture below that was the cover of a book of pretty pictures that this community was sold on. All the bells and whistles were included. Many residents assumed that when a preferred developer was chosen, this “vision” would happen. Unfortunately the only guarantee I can see at this point is some townhouses and condos. Without further land purchases or expropriations at a huge cost to the taxpayer, along with future expenditures of town reserves, increased debt and/or tax increases the residents probably won’t see the rest of the pretty pictures for decades if ever. To locate the arena, library and other town amenities on Main Street, which will not be paid for by the developer, requires further land purchases/expropriations…….who do you think is paying for that? We the taxpayers. The Town has a number of other opportunities to construct town facilities outside of the Main Street location which would serve our residents better. There is another link that I speak to these amenities in further detail.
TOWN SQUARE PROJECT
Below are renderings for the proposed Town Square Project located on Main Street. You will notice that a proposed library is shadowed in but not designed. That will have to be decided by a future Council as to whether or not it gets developed as it will again be the Town/taxpayers paying to build it.
I do not believe that this area of Main Street should be developed as shown. I question if what is proposed, two blocks of townhouses, a civic building, parking and a town square, will even fit on the site. With appropriate and reasoned development at our Beachfront, Main Street will grow organically, driven by the development community when the time is right.
From my understanding, the developer will only be purchasing the townhouse “building envelope” from the town with parking for the residential aspect of this development being accessed between the two buildings but no parking will be provided by the developer for overflow of residential visitors, employees of the commercial storefronts or customers frequenting those stores. One must then necessarily assume that the town owned parking allotted for the potential library will have to be used by customers and employees of the stores beneath the townhouses. However, that would create a shortfall and conflict for the library or other civic building proposed in that area as they will require that same dedicated parking area. This appears to be entirely different rules than other developers are required to adhere to when building in Wasaga Beach.
Furthermore, recognizing the details of this agreement are still to be finalized, the town has confirmed that the construction of the public square component will be paid for by the municipality, owned and maintained by the municipality. Based on these details it appears FRAM is only building townhouses on this site and nothing more.
This leaves me even more confused by the fact that the developer has indicated that they needed Beach Area 2 as well because they won’t make any money on the Main Street Town Square development. I have yet to see their pro forma on this development however, I question how they will make any money on phase three which is the amenities area if they can’t make money on this development where a lot of concessions seem to have been made. This is why council needs to ensure that amenities reflective of the size of development allowed, are built first and not left to the end as the potential for them to be built decreases greatly.
BEACHFRONT RESIDENTIAL/RESORT LANDS:
Essentially a subdivision has been proposed to be located on our beautiful beachfront on the only town owned land in this area with natural features and shade.
Why did council put off the steps to construct important facilities for our residents such as the arena and library that should have been started long ago, but managed to go through a whole smoke and mirrors show to ensure an agreement was signed with a developer to build condos on the town’s beachfront? This developer is further along with plans (which are still just pictures as far as I am aware) than the town is for our facilities. I believe at one point they spoke about shovels in the ground in the spring. Personally I find these timelines completely unrealistic.
If council wanted to sell Beach Area 2 so condos could be built they should have just had that vote at the beginning of this term instead of going through a time consuming, expensive and community divisive process. It could have been a straight land deal if everyone thought condos was the way to go.
I have heard repeatedly during these presentations references to Florida. We are not Florida and do not have the same climate and weather and cannot build like Florida.
I have yet to be made aware as to what one of these condos will cost but I question whether they will be financially feasible for the residents of Wasaga Beach, many of whom envision themselves living in them.
This is most certainly not a fair cost deal for our Town in that the developer paying dollar values that could have been realized a decade ago. Building townhouses on Main Street and no town amenities does not warrant the town allowing FRAM access to Beach Area Two. What does the town get out of a few townhouses built on Main Street? Apparently the amenities area will be included in phase three. I question how the developer would see phase three as profitable when a profit couldn’t made on the townhouses being built on Main Street which had FRAM insisting that they had to have Beach Area two to make it viable. It doesn’t add up.
MY VISION FOR OUR BEACHFRONT:
I firmly believe that Beach Area 1 needs to be developed before anything else at our Beachfront or Main Street.
During the 2014 election I made statements that I stand by today which were:
“I want to see development of Beach Areas 1 and 2 but I believe this needs to be done in a responsible fashion”
“I am a firm believer that competition is a great thing as it demands excellence from those looking to do business in our community”
“I do not support putting all of our eggs in one basket by selling all of the municipally owned land at our beachfront to one individual or corporation”
The Town owned a large amount of land in the beachfront area and the past council had started in a direction to parcel the land off and have it built in a sustainable responsible fashion……not all of our eggs in one basket. In 2015 the majority of this current council approved the purchase of the beachfront buildings. With the Town purchasing the beachfront buildings we also lost our only large developer with a financial interest in the area as opposed to trying to work together. This put it on the backs of the taxpayers to now pick up the shortfall.
I believe Council has a responsibility to ensure that we don’t allow over-development of our beachfront area. There is a lot of talk about pedestrian friendly and walkable communities which we need to respect and take into consideration. However, not everyone can or wants to bike or walk or tote kids and wagons full of their beach toys and umbrellas from some far away parking location. Regardless of the development, adequate parking and traffic flows must be considered. Not providing adequate parking will surely negatively affect the businesses financial viability in this area.
I truly believe we need to keep it simple, classy, refresh the area and make our beachfront available to all demographics and financial statures. A development plan that requires no unnecessary expropriations or interim control by-laws.
My vision (below) addresses some comments made in a newspaper article in early August of this year where town staff spoke to “taking tourism to the next level.” The current development plan does not address this in the short term and quite frankly it could be decades before any substantial improvements are seen.
CLICK HERE to read the Simcoe.com news story
Some examples of my vision that will address taking tourism to the next level are:
-outdoor opportunities at Beach Area 2 that will expand and grow our current offerings essentially expanding our tourism season
-providing amenities that make visitors stay in Wasaga Beach more enjoyable and perhaps longer
-creating people places, accommodation and amenities at the same time eliminates the chicken and egg syndrome which can be solved by developing Beach Area 1 first
-creation of new accommodation at the beachfront will hopefully entice some current accommodation owners to invest in their businesses and provide needed upgrades to outdated accommodation facilities in order to compete with a product that consumers are looking for and expect today
BEACH AREA ONE:
Areas such as Beck Square which is recognized as a Heritage site, could be expanded adding more green space, shade and with benches or swings making it more inviting.
Consideration to renovate the old fire hall built in 1967 and located on Second Street into the Town’s archives, museum and visitor station would be located conveniently near Nancy Island’s Historic site and provide a place for visitors to learn a little history about the community. Perhaps this would be a great venue for local artists to show their work as well as some interesting items the Town has gathered over the years but are not displayed where too many people can enjoy them. Renovating the fire hall and keeping its history and design would add a nice contrast to new buildings that are sure to come.
Consideration with regard to honoring the beloved history of the Dardanella. It may not be financially prudent to renovate the current building but ensuring that memories are not forgotten and included in a new build and perhaps even called The Dardanella, that will stand for another hundred years making new memories.
PLEASE NOTE: The following pictures are just examples to assist in sharing ideas and in no way represent what I believe the architecture style should be.
Regardless of the architecture style chosen, it is recognized that the buildings will require several stories to be built to provide for adequate amenities, stores and rooms which could be hotel, privately owned or in a rental pool in order to make the development feasible for a developer. The past council completed a hotel marketing study that showed a hotel of approximately 80 guestrooms, 70 indoor seats and 30 patio seats for food and beverage, meeting/event rooms, fitness room/indoor pool and lobby would be an appropriate size. A residential component would be required on the property to absorb any hotel development shortfall. The Town didn’t own all of the beachfront properties it does today, but with the above in mind, I believe this would be feasible at Beach Area One.
I believe that the first couple of buildings could provide hotel rooms and amenities, private ownership units, the Casino if the operator chooses Wasaga Beach and insists on a beachfront location, dining options, a dinner theatre or upscale night club. With a round table meeting and appropriate interested investors in the room there is no doubt other ideas will come forward.
I believe we need to start in the middle of Beach Area 1 and develop to the outer edges. Existing outlier businesses such as the kiosks, the beer garden, bars/restaurants, paddleboard, shops and other existing businesses can accommodate our residents and visitors while the new development is built. The new development itself will make for an interesting attraction to some.
There may be opportunities to allow for a level of parking under buildings. Parking will be a very important component to the development as lack of parking in my opinion will contribute to a failed development. Not everyone will want to bike or walk especially in winter weather.
A covered entrance facing Mosely Street will allow access to the building comfortably during all seasons.
There is room for multiple buildings to be built along beach drive. Perhaps connection should be considered so access to amenities in each of the buildings is convenient during all seasons.
When new construction occurs the buildings should be stepped back further away from Beach Drive to allow for outdoor spaces in front of the buildings. A variety of patio finishes will allow for an enjoyable time regardless if there is sun, rain or wind. Stores, restaurants and cafes on the bottom floor with outdoor patios will provide for an enjoyable visit to all beach goers.
Families come to the beach for back to the basics outdoor enjoyment. Provide some play structures and perhaps some telescopes so residents and visitors can watch the Plovers or take in the views across the bay.
Building stepped areas in between buildings or in opportune areas will provide a space for people to sit and socialize, watch a sunset or listen to a musical busker.
Simple swings and benches for people to relax and watch the waves, sunset and sunrise bring peace and enjoyment to many.
Shade areas are needed when the sun gets too hot!
Providing wash stations to remove the sand after a day at the beach is a wonderful convenience for beach goers. Updated public washrooms are required.
BEACH AREA TWO:
I truly believe it would be a massive disservice to this community to take the only natural environment at the beachfront, owned by the town, and turn it into a subdivision of condos.
My vision for Beach Area 2 is to keep it as natural as possible, maybe even planting a few more trees on the perimeter to provide for a greater buffer from the winds and creating a secluded sanctuary for all to enjoy.
In the spring, summer and into the fall hosting events in Beach Area Two could range from concerts, to outdoor movies or live theatre nights. A short walk through the trees and onto the beach may find some other activities and events going on.
In the fall and winter turn this into a magical wonderland that draws people to the area. Protection from the existing treed buffer will make this area pleasant to visit all seasons. Those visiting will have the option for close by accommodation in the Beach Area One Hotel, supporting the local economy, enjoying other natural areas such as the Nordic Centre and creating great memories. Or for those adventure seekers consider providing opportunities for winter camping or other outdoor adventure!