Did You Hear The Screen Door Slam?

Many readers will recognize that the question above comes from the iconic rock song, Big Yellow Taxi, and its haunting lament “you never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.  Well, the Beachway Community is hardly “paradise”.  In fact, one unsuccessful candidate in the recent municipal election was quite clearly appalled at the thought that people would live and raise families there.  Putting aside this rather smug arrogance, the Beachway residents are a long-standing and resilient culture within Burlington and the Halton Regional Government has, at least in part, elected to take away their homes and “put up a parking lot”.  To make this happen over time, the community, which has existed for over 100 years, will eventually be demolished.

 The Beachway residents fought hard in 2013 to be allowed to stay and co-exist with the expanded Beachway park.  They observed then that they have never prevented the public from accessing the beach nor posed a threat to the shoreline.  The Burlington Waterfront Committee (BWC) took up their cause and, in a campaign that lasted from Spring through Fall of 2013,  argued that the residents should be left alone.  A survey conducted by the BWC in the Summer of 2013 showed that 82% of Burlington respondents agreed.  However, only three Councillors in Burlington ( Meed Ward, Dennison and Taylor) were of like mind; the other four members of Council voted for acquisition of the properties.  As a result, Burlington took a divided voice to the Region in October 2013 and a local community was earmarked for destruction when Oakville representatives and the Regional Chair voted as a block.  Such are the ironies of municipal politics.  However, our purpose here is not to comment on this unnecessary loss of community.  That perspective is very effectively covered by Councillor Meed Ward in her December 2014 Newsletter (https://madmimi.com/s/c94ca5#lakeshore).  Rather, we would like to seriously question the associated economics and business case with the benefit of new information.

 Readers may or may not be familiar with all aspects of the planned purchase of all 30 houses in the Beachway community by the Region.  The purpose of the acquisition is ostensibly to add another 3% of land to the Regional Beachway Park.  Our concern is at what cost and to what end use?  The houses will be demolished, as acquired, and the properties will be restored as natural land (foundations, pavement, septic tanks/beds and any other contaminants removed).  The Region has estimated the cost of the property acquisition  alone to be $10 million or an average of over $330,000 per home.  Significantly, the costs of restoration, which will be considerable,  have not been estimated.

Now we have learned that the first domino in the property purchase game has fallen.  It is 1011 Lakeshore Road, a property on the west (non-shore) side just south of the Sewage Treatment plant.  The cost to regional taxpayers is well over $600,000.  It is early in the game and one home sale does not represent a pattern.  It does, however, provide a reason for concern and caution.  If each house (on both the shore and non-shore side) was valued with this cost as an average, the total cost just to purchase all of the houses could be over $18 million or nearly twice the estimate given to taxpayers.  If the costs of restoration are then factored in to the total, the cost becomes far, far greater.  Whether or not this is good value for taxpayers is subject to debate and interpretation.  Our point is that the debate has never occurred and, given a decision made with a completely different set of cost metrics, may never occur.  Are there other projects in the Region that have better value, that exhibit a better cost/benefit ratio for our tax dollars?  Quite possibly and, of course, “value” is largely determined by the use to which these resources are put.  This leads to the second major issue, our “parking lot”.

 What is the plan once the Beachway homes are all demolished over time?  Well, the Region’s “Park Plan” is not complete, so we only have the latest “Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan” to go by ( cf. Burlington Parks & Recreation Department, document PR-23-13, dated August 28, 2013;cms.burlington.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=28125 ).  Under the list of elements that the  park zone is envisioned to include (cf. page 11), there is a proposal to “relocate parking from the dynamic beach to parking in less sensitive areas”.  Significantly, the only “less sensitive areas” in the park are on the west side of Lakeshore Road where the one rectangle of fifteen (15) houses exists today.  Under Option 2 (cf. page 15) “with the entire beach area as parkland” (the plan now approved),  it states that this “allows for expansion of existing parking capacity west of Lakeshore Rd. & Lakeshore Court.”.  This makes it reasonably clear that the fifteen (15) houses on the west side of Lakeshore Road are to be purchased and demolished for a parking lot.  Did someone just hear the screen door slam?

 Based on our estimates to buy half the houses, tear them down, clean up the mess and pave it over, that parking lot alone could cost over $10 million of taxpayer money.  Arguably, it would be the most expensive parking lot in Burlington.  So that is the likely fate of these “park” lands we are going to purchase on the west side of Lakeshore Road.  There is no mention of what is intended to replace the houses strung along the east side of Lakeshore Road after they have been demolished, but the proposal to move parking away from the dynamic beach area would suggest these lands would not be parking areas but possibly naturalized areas of grass.  Still, at a possible total cost of twice the initial estimate, is the original decision still valid and is all this destruction both warranted and cost-effective for the citizens of the region?  At the very least, the first business case needs to be re-examined with a new and more critical set of eyes.  As such, we would ask concerned citizens to communicate with the City and the Region to encourage a proper cost benefit analysis be undertaken, to advocate that it include all relevant costs and to ensure that both City and Region commit to a process of extensive public engagement and awareness once the true costs are known.  The contact information for both Regional and City Councillors is available below:

 

Halton Regional Council:

 

http://www.halton.ca/cms/one.aspx?portalId=8310&pageId=11279

 

Burlington City Council

 

Mayor Rick Goldring – mayor@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7607

Councillor Rick Craven – rick.craven@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7600. ext. 7587

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward – marianne.meedward@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7600, ext. 7588

Councillor John Taylor – john.taylor@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7600, ext. 7459

Councillor Jack Dennison – jack.dennison@burlington.ca; (905) 632-4800, ext. 211

Councillor Paul Sharman – paul.sharman@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7600, ext. 7591

Councillor Blair Lancaster – blair.lancaster@burlington.ca; (905) 335-7600, ext. 7592

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windows-to-the-Lake

 

 

In several of the candidate responses to the recent Waterfront Questionnaire, reference is made to Burlington’s “Windows-to-the-Lake”.  As the name suggests, Windows-to-the-lake are small parcels of city-owned property providing access to the waterfront and an unrestricted view of lake Ontario.  There are twelve (12) in all stretching from east to west across the four waterfront wards:

  • Appleby Place
  • Walker’s Line
  • Fruitland Avenue
  • Lakeland Crescent
  • St. Paul Street
  • Market Street
  • Green Street
  • Allview Avenue
  • Stillwater Crescent
  • King Road
  • Bellhaven Crescent
  • Powder Magazine Road

 The ‘Windows’ are meant to offer Burlington citizens and visitors an opportunity to enjoy the lakefront at their leisure.  In April 2011 the Burlington Waterfront Committee (then the WAPAC) initiated an inventory and detailed examination of the ‘Windows’ to serve as a baseline for future improvement efforts.  They recommended to the City that a number of standard features be implemented such as common signage, adequate lighting, benches, refuse cans, safety railings and parking facilities (where possible).  Periodically, the BWC reviews the progress made on the ‘Windows’ and offers recommendations for improvement.  The most recent review was conducted last month (September, 2014) and revealed that few advances have been made since the Committee’s initial review.  The current findings note that:

  • most sites need to be clearly marked/signed
  • encroached areas need to be resolved
  • many sites need lights
  • all sites should be better groomed and maintained
  • several sites need benches, garbage cans and safety railings and
  • all areas should be marked on Lakeshore or North Shore blvd. 

As part of its work plan for 2014/15, the BWC will place a priority on working with the City to improve the existing ‘Windows’ and make them the public asset that they are intended to be.

 

Waterfront Questionnaire for Burlington Candidates

The Burlington Waterfront Committee believes that use and enjoyment of the waterfront is part of the heritage of all Burlington residents and a compelling feature of living in Burlington.  As such, it looks to the City’s elected representatives to promote a cohesive vision for the future development of waterfront land, to exercise responsible stewardship of the waterfront and to maintain effective public access.

The Committee has developed a short questionnaire to allow each candidate running for public office in the upcoming Municipal Election an opportunity to express their opinions on waterfront related issues and concerns.  View candidate responses - Questionnaire Summary – Oct 20,2014

Waterfront investigation story picked up by local media

Local media are covering the Burlington Waterfront Committee’s quest for an independent investigation into the closed door meeting process that led to the 6-1 decision to sell public waterfront land between Market St. and St. Paul St. to adjacent homeowners.

Read the Burlington Post article on Inside Halton here:

July 29-2014: Investigation into closed meeting requested by Burlington Waterfront Committee

Read the Burlington Gazette article here:

July 29-2014: Waterfront property for public use – it can happen if the public makes enough noise

Read the Burlington Waterfront Committee’s press release by scrolling down to next article.

Burlington Council ignores City Policy on Waterfront Lands in closed meeting discussion

View from the public portion of the Water Street Walkway

View from the public portion of the Water Street Walkway

PRESS RELEASE – July 24, 2014

In October 2013 Burlington Councillors agreed to sell City-owned waterfront land to abutting land owners contrary to a city policy that requires the retention of public waterfront lands and expansion of waterfront trails. This is contrary to a City staff report recommending that the land be retained and developed as a public parkette/walkway.

 

The unopened road allowance known as Water Street that lies between Market St. and St. Paul St. in downtown Burlington could relocate a portion of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail from roadside and provide additional public access to the Lake. If the City concludes the sale of this property, the public will lose this waterfront asset forever. At the October Committee meeting which was held in closed session, the Councillors directed staff to negotiate the sale and report back in six months despite delegations from citizens and from the Burlington Waterfront Committee (BWC) and a staff report that recommended retaining and using the land for public use. In May 2014 City Councillors extended the negotiation period with no end date. The BWC attempted to present its case again that the sale was contrary to City Policy, however the BWC delegation was ruled out of order as the specific issue on the agenda was limited to the status of negotiations.

 

Accordingly, the BWC registered its concern about the closed meeting decisions by way of a letter to the City Clerk (copy here: Request for Investigation Procedure). An independent Investigator has been appointed to review the matter and report back. The BWC is aware that closed meetings are required to discuss the sale and  value of land however we disagree that the decisions to ignore the Waterfront Trail Policy (copy here: Burlington Waterfront Trail Policy) and the staff report on the Water Street Land Parcels (PR 31 13 csc report) should be discussed in closed session.

 

BWC e-mail: Burlington_waterfront_cttee@outlook.com

LaSalle Marina representatives outline wave break/expansion

 

Representatives from the LaSalle Park Marina Association were invited to attend the most recent Burlington Waterfront Committee meeting to outline plans for the marina expansion and wave break, answer questions, and respond to issues raised about the impact of the expansion on the park environment, and in particular the wintering habitat for Trumpeter Swans.

To view the PowerPoint presentation from the association, visit here. [Editor's note: The presentation has been taken down from the website after we were contacted by someone whose photo was taken without permission and featured in the powerpoint. BWC does not condone taking photos of individuals without their permission.]

City staff member Doug Pladsen also attend the meeting, to answer questions about the Environmental Assessment that was conducted last August, which among other things, reviewed the impact to the Trumpeter Swan population.

Two separate parties requested that the Ministry of the Environment review the Environmental Assessment completed by a consultant last August. That review is underway and there is no timeline for the Ministry to report back.

A number of residents have been asking whether city council has taken a position on the proposed LaSalle Park Wave Break & Marina Expansion. A number of you have also raised concerns about the potential impact of the proposed expansion on the park environment and in particular the Trumpeter Swan population.

Council is waiting to hear back from the Ministry of the Environment before taking any further action.

The BWC has not yet taken a position on the marina, but is gathering additional information.

Trumpeter Swan Coalition attends Burlington Waterfront Committee

Trumpeter Swans in Burlington Bay.

Trumpeter Swans in Burlington Bay.

Thanks to members of the Trumpeter Swan Coalition for attending the monthly Burlington Waterfront Committee meeting last night to share their concerns about the potential impact on the wintering habitat of Trumpeter Swans from the proposed LaSalle Marina wave break and expansion. Read the coalition’s powerpoint Presentation For Waterfront Committee 2 or visit their website here: http://www.trumpeterswancoalition.com/.

The Burlington Waterfront Committee is seeking to understand all sides of this issue, and also invited Conservation Halton and city staff to attend the meeting. They did not attend; city staff referred members to the environmental study completed last August. Read that here: http://cms.burlington.ca/Page8359.aspx

Read more about the LaSalle Marina here: http://www.burlbay.com/

The Ministry of the Environment is currently assessing a request for a more detailed environmental study (called a Part II order) on all potential impacts from the proposed expansion.

The waterfront committee supports increasing public access to the waterfront so long as there are no negative impacts to the Trumpeter Swan population. The committee is a volunteer group of residents from across the city providing public input on waterfront access and protection in Burlington. Learn more about the committee on their website here: http://www.burlingtonwaterfront.org/