Nina Bifolchi

Economic Development and Beachfront Development

The development of our Beachfront has been a hot topic for years. After the fire in 2007 an even greater emphasis has been put on the need to develop this area of Wasaga Beach to attract tourists to the area for local businesses to benefit as well as to provide an area that our community can be proud of and utilize. While I want to see development of Beach Areas 1 and 2, I believe it needs to be done in a responsible fashion.

During the last term of council I was the only Council member that did not support staff’s recommendation to expedite the development permit process and allow part of the Dome to be located on municipal land.

I was vocal and not supportive of the Levy Brother’s vision of the proposed development at that time.

After the 2007 fire, I defended property owner’s rights who lost their buildings to the fire, to rebuild as soon as they were ready as opposed to waiting for the bigger development. Unfortunately redevelopment did not occur. Development of private property is up to the individual owners and council can not make people develop before they are ready.

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.

During the 2010 election I had the following on my election webpage which I am pleased to say is the direction council moved toward.

“The town has marketed Beach Area 2 as a potential four season resort site for several years with little to no results. If we want to see a substantial four season resort on this property then our marketing strategy needs to change. If any municipally owned land at the beachfront is to be sold we need to decide what we want to see and market it as ready for construction without the red tape that is currently attached. Potential purchasers of Beach Area 2 are aware that the town would like to see a four season resort. However, the purchaser is still required to prove that it is viable by way of many reports and studies which would have to take into account the needs of the entire beachfront. These studies need to still occur, but I believe with such a large beachfront (much of the land owned by the town), studies need to be undertaken by the Town with costs being recovered once the land sells. This will make a much more attractive package to potential purchasers.”

I was a member of the Beach 1 and 2 Visioning Committee and Implementation Steering committee. These committees were established to undertake a Strategic Visioning exercise to develop a long-term vision for the best future use and urban design guidelines for private and municipally owned lands at Beach Areas 1 and 2 and then put the vision into motion. Significant public engagement was held to ensure residents and business owners had a chance to provide their ideas for this important tourism area. While these things take time, Council has continued on the path towards the vision created for this area by its stakeholders.

While there has been some criticism for the length of time to go through this process, preparing the land for a development of this type and size, considering it is encompassed by both public and privately owned land, doesn’t happen overnight. There are many things to take into consideration in order that it is planned appropriately and sustainably.

Traffic studies, infrastructure needs, natural hazard and wave uprush studies are just a few of the required steps to complete in order to covert the land into developable blocks that are reasonable size and scope for potential purchasers and construction ready.

Once these developable blocks and parcels have gone through the process and are construction ready the land is far more desirable and affordable to franchises and individuals wanting to open a business in Wasaga Beach.

Council also recently had a Beach Area 2 Hotel Marketing Study completed. This was a required step to move forward in marketing Beach Area 2. This study showed that a hotel approximately 46,800 square feet, with approximately 80 guestrooms, 70 indoor seats and 30 patio seats for food and beverage, meeting/event rooms, fitness room/indoor pool and a lobby would be an appropriate size. A residential component would be required on the property as well to absorb any hotel development shortfall.

Attracting investment and experienced developers to Wasaga Beach has been difficult. I believe that the path council is taking will result in our beachfront being built in a sustainable fashion that our residents can be proud of and our visitors wishing they didn’t have to go home.

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