The Stockwell Report V1-E15

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

 

On August 26th of this year The Stockwell Report commented on two public meetings that covered the launch of The Master Plan for Downtown Wasaga Beach, a $350,000 study for the creation of a downtown core made up of retail, residential, and leisure facilities.

 

The project was jointly financed by the Province, Regional Tourism Seven, Simcoe County, Stonebridge Town Centre, developer Hamount Investments, and the Municipality, with the Town`s share being $35,000.

 

During those meetings, attendees were asked to participate by designating their choice of the core of the proposed downtown on a map which showed Beach One and the area of Main Street south of the Main Street bridge.

 

If my memory serves me correctly, the overwhelming public choice was the area south of the Main Street bridge.

 

The planning consultants, Forrec Limited, stated that they would take that information away  and work on a second set of public meetings to review recommended options regarding a development plan.

 

Earlier this week that meeting took place with approximately 200 residents in attendance.

 

Opening remarks at that meeting, from Wasaga Beach Mayor Brian Smith, stated that the planning exercise must be “affordable, realistic, and sustainable”. Those comments were echoed by the consultants as they presented “different options for consideration, and they would be reporting back next month.” They went on to state “We are still at the idea stage”.

As the evening went on, it became apparent that the consultants were presenting two development nodes for consideration, these being the area immediately south of the Main Street bridge (as suggested by the majority of attendees at the August public meeting) and a second development node focused on the heart of Beach One.

 

The consultant’s approach to the development of the two nodes were clearly different. They spoke of the Main Street South area as a “community hub”, made up of things like a new town hall, a library, and even a high school (which was met with applause by those in attendance) .

 

It was suggested that those public facilities could be complemented by four to six storied condos with a number of small retail outlets being created at the street level of the residential structures. The retail outlets should be focused on providing “the best little bakery/cafe, the best little butcher, and the best little dining facility”.

The idea being that that type of retail wouldn`t call for large capital outlay, yet would draw both local and tourist trade to the area.

 

When it came to the Beach One area, a Resort/Residential type of development was visualised, not unlike the Blue Mountain resort at Collingwood`s Ski Hills.

 

It was noted that it would be easier to proceed with the Beach One development in that the municipality owns most of the land fronting the beach.

 

The consultants then spent some time speaking of things like indoor water parks, now existing in both Canada and the U.S.A, and what type of capital expenditures it takes to create such facilities. They also discussed a number of other Resort/Residential concepts that probably would be a stretch for the Wasaga Beach market.

 

The meeting went longer than expected, given the interest of those in attendance, and the closing comments by the consultants, after a brief question and answer period, were that they would again host a third session on November Third to present a status report on the study.

 

Now, sooner or later the consultants will bring a plan to the Wasaga Beach Council for its consideration, and, once adopted, the wheels will start turning towards attracting interested developers with the financing needed to bring the final plan into being.

 

As stated, it is clear that the Beach One strip would be the easiest to launch, given Council`s decision to bring those commercial properties into public ownership. However, if that should happen, the danger in such a decision could lead to picking low-hanging fruit that could be both the beginning and the end of an ambitious plan.

 

There are two communities within a few hours drive of Wasaga Beach that should be visited by anyone interested in economic development plans that changed the face of small communities: Goderich and Belleville.

 

In August 2011 the town of Goderich’s downtown was devastated by a tornado. The downtown has since been rebuilt, carried out by the Downtown Master Plan, and the town is now working on the Goderich Waterfront Master Plan, that would connect its waterfront with the highly successful downtown area.

 

Now, the property owners were probably working with a good amount of insurance money, that came as a result of the tornado, and was used to finance the downtown development.

 

However, a daytrip to the area to see the downtown redevelopment first hand, would give the viewer a look at what a community can do when committed to a well thought out plan.

 

The second day trip would be visiting the City of Belleville to view the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre. The facility houses three N.H.L. size ice pads, an Aquatic Centre with an eight lane, twenty-five meter pool, a large multi-use gymnasium, retail space, and a host of other community facilities.

 

As Councilor Ron Ego has said about many a project that crosses Councils desks, “Let`s do it right”.

 

 

 

The Stockwell Report E-1 V-14

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

On May 15, 2015, the Wasaga Beach Council purchased seven properties along Beach Drive. These include eight buildings and 28 rental units, which included three bars that were closed at the time.

On May 21, 2015, a staff report to the Committee of the Whole stated, “Leading up to the purchase the previous owners were actively

trying to lease the food and retail units at Beachfront and at closing had 13 signed leases and one tentative lease. The current leases were assigned to the Town as part of the transaction.”

Under the direction of George Vadeboncoeur, the Chief Administrative Officer, staff proceeded to rent the remaining properties prior to the unofficial opening of the tourist  season, the July First week-end.

Due to the tight time restraints, only one operator could obtain the necessary liquor licences, etc., to meet the deadline. So that operator was given a one year lease on the three bar properties.

The balance of the units were leased on a standard commercial lease for a one year term.

Following the 2015 season, the Town hired a new Economic Development and Tourism Director, who, together with the C.A.O., proceeded to call for leasing proposals on the three bars, as well as the remaining storefront units.

The Town also set out to establish a number of kiosks, as well as a permanent “beer tent” facility along the Main Street Market section of Beach One.

Again, working under a tight time frame to meet the July First Week-end, nearly all of the Beach One properties were leased in time for the 2016 season.

However, the 2016 program was not unanimously supported by Council, and subsequently drew constant criticism from a small group of ratepayers, mostly via social media.

As the 2016 season wound down, a few beachfront tenants publicly voiced complaints, aimed at Town staff. This lead to a report being submitted to a Committee of Council, on July 14, 2016, recommending that, “staff be directed to arrange a meeting with all tenants currently operating in Town-owned beachfront units at Beach Area One, including kiosk operators at the Main Street Market, so that an open conversation pertaining to any issues or concerns on the part of the tenants can occur and any steps required to resolve issues or concerns be identified;

And Further That the General Government Section of Coordinated Committee recommend to Council that staff be directed at the meeting to offer a one-time opportunity for any current tenant in a Town-owned beachfront unit or Kiosk to break their lease immediately with no penalty if they wish to do so;

AND FINALLY THAT the General Government Section of Coordinated Committee recommend to Council that staff be directed to report back to the next meeting of the General Government Section of Coordinated Committee on the outcomes of the meeting and any recommended actions required to resolve issues or concerns.”

So….this past Monday evening that meeting took place and a number of Beach One tenants were in attendance. All of Council, along with a few interested ratepayers sat in the audience to witness the proceedings.

The first speaker was Alex Smardenka, a well known restaurateur, and owner of the Marlwood Golf Course. The Smardenka family operated one of the Main Street Market kiosks, and his comments were very supportive of the efforts made by the Town in creating a successful summer program and the first year results of the venture.

He went on to comment on the “nay sayers” and the fact that there is opposition to the Town’s efforts were “counterproductive”.

He stated that he felt the Town acted as a fair landlord and everyone should work together towards the success of the venture.

The speakers that followed were generally supportive of the 2016 program, but did point out problems they had with the different promoters that ran special events throughout the summer.

Their concerns were legitimate, and certainly solvable with a clearer understanding of a new set of “ground rules” governing both tenants and the promoters of the special events that are staged at the site. Everyone seemed to agree that the special events drew people to the site and, overall, was good for the economy of the Town.

However, there was a conflict between the two when it came to sharing the site, something that probably could be solved by a closer working plan presented prior to the staging of each event.

In my opinion nothing was raised that couldn`t be addressed.

Also, the “nay sayers’” complaints were not echoed by the tenants.

The C.A.O., in my opinion, did a good job of chairing the evening, and everyone went away with the feeling that they were listened to, in a fair manner, and their concerns will be addressed.

On the matter of breaking a lease with no penalties, the C.A.O. explained that all tenants have until 4.30 p.m., September 23, to submit their request to do so.

I am sure that some tenants may take advantage of doing so, based on personal circumstances. However, the thought of a major exodus on behalf of the tenants is simply wishful thinking by a handful of disgruntled citizens.

The Stockwell Report E-1 V13

THE WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT

If you were looking up past Premiers of Ontario on Wikipedia, you would come across the following:

Frank Stuart Miller (May 14, 1927-July 21, 2000)  was a Canadian politician, who served as the 19th Premier of Ontario for four months in 1985. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1971 as a Progressive Conservative member for the Central Ontario riding of Muskoka. He served in the cabinet of Premier Bill Davis in several portfolios including Minister of Health,and Minister of Natural Resources. He also served five years as Treasurer of Ontario.

When Davis resigned in 1984 he vied for the leadership of the party and won over a slate of three other candidates. In February, 1985 he formed a cabinet of 33 members, which was the largest in Ontario`s history. Miller quickly called an election which was held on May 2. His party lost 18 seats but still held the most seats at 52.

He formed a minority government that lasted less than two months when the Liberals, under David Peterson, and the New Democrats, under Bob Rae, formed an unofficial coalition and defeated the government on a confidence motion on June 26.

Initially, Miller stayed on as leader of the opposition, but resigned shortly after.

 

After retirement from provincial politics he moved back to Muskoka where he became Chairman of the District of Muskoka. He died in 2000.

Now…What does this have to do with Wasaga Beach ?

Well, Frank Miller was the Minister of Natural Resources in June, 1978, when that Ministry released the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park Master Plan.

The opening paragraph of the Minister`s Approval Statement of the Master Plan clearly set the economic future of the newly formed Town of Wasaga Beach.

It reads as follows; “Wasaga Beach, since the popular and widespread use of the automobile, has been one of the most popular recreation areas of Ontario. As one of the best swimming beaches in the Province, Wasaga Beach has been magic to millions of visitors. Located completely within the Town of Wasaga Beach, the provincial scope and seasonal nature of the recreational resource became a problem for the local municipality. At the request of the community, the provincial government was asked to manage the beach and control the fun and sun seekers.

Consequently, throughout  the past decade a joint municipal and provincial program evolved for developing the Town of Wasaga Beach into a complete, serviced, year round resort community with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park playing a major role.”

The closing paragraph of the Minister`s Approval Statement reads, “In accordance with the Provincial Park Act, Sections 1D and 7A, this masterplan is approved as the official policy for the development and management of the park. The implementation of the Wasaga Beach Master Plan represents a key component of the commitment by the Province to help the Town of Wasaga Beach to develop a viable recreational community for all seasons.”

For close to three decades the relationship between the Province and the Town went well. However, in 2006 the provincial government, under the leadership of Premier Dalton McGuinty, introduced The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, which changed the interpretation, objectives, and management of provincial parks. The new direction was capsulized in the new Act as follows: “Ontario`s provincial parks and conservation reserves are dedicated to the people of Ontario and visitors for their inspiration, education, health, recreational enjoyment and other benefits with the intention that these areas shall be managed to maintain their ecological integrity and to leave them unimpaired for future generations.”

The statement illustrates a clear shift from recreation and tourism to conservation. One that didn`t impact on the working relationship between the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Town of Wasaga Beach immediately, however, as time went by, and as ministry budgets became tighter in some areas, the maintenance of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park  became wanting.

 

Today, under successive leadership of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne the facilities within the Park are deplorable. The beach washrooms, within their lands, are almost unusable as a result of lack of day-to-day maintenance. More attention is given to the plight of the plovers than the comfort of the tourist that pay to visit the park. The Province pays little attention to the Spring clean-up of Beach Five, and of late, have allowed beach areas to be invaded by invasive vegetation that is reducing the area of sandy beaches.

Fortunately, three ratepayer groups, whose properties abut the beach, together with the Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer of the town, have banded together. They created a petition aimed at the Ministry of Natural Resources to address the issues within the Park, specifically the problem of the invasive vegetation that has literally taken over the beach area.

Faye Ego, who represents the Allenwood Ratepayers, Marsha Ramage, of the West Wasaga Beach Ratepayers, and Howard Wilson, of the Central Wasaga Beach Homeowners, have created a joint website that promotes the petition to the residents of Wasaga Beach.

The website is http://www.savewasaga.com, and I would urge you to visit the site, sign the petition, and urge your friends and neighbours to do the same.

When completed, Mayor Smith has agreed to present the petition to the Province in hopes of bringing the Ministry and the Provincial Government back to the Province of Ontario`s original commitment to the people of Wasaga Beach in assisting the town in its efforts to further recreation and tourism built around The Worlds Longest Fresh Water Beach.

Past Councils followed the 1978 vision and  worked with the Province to promote tourism, rather than industry, as a strong tax base for the Municipality. It is unconscionable for the Province to now go back on its commitment by using the provincial parkland in a manner that hurts the town rather than helps it.

Adding your name to the ratepayers’ petition is truly drawing a line in the sand.

Now is the time to step up and be heard.

The Stockwell Report V1-E12

THE WASAGA BEACH STOCKWELL REPORT

Last week this column was dedicated to the process of developing a new downtown for Wasaga Beach. It spoke of the appointment of a multidisciplinary team, led by Forrec Ltd., who will carry out the planning of a new downtown area and report to Council at the end of the eight month process. During two public presentations, the need for such a process, and the process itself, was explained by the consulting team. The presentations drew a good number of interested citizens who enthusiastically supported them. As the purchase and operation of the seventeen buildings on Beach One dominated the first two years of Council`s agenda, the planning and development of a new downtown will dominate Council`s agenda over the next two years. As one member of Council I am a big supporter of a new downtown. However, I appreciate the amount of time and attention that the downtown process will take from both Staff and Council in the final two years of this Council. In providing that attention from both Staff and Council, I believe that it is imperative that we don`t lose site of the continued development of Beach One, and the creation of a profitable activity program for the site. It is for these reasons that during a Committee of the Whole meeting, that took place earlier this week, I advised Council that at the September Committee of the Whole meeting I will be presenting a Notice of Motion. The Motion will request the C.A.O. to bring forward a report to the Committee that Council give consideration to the establishment of a Board of Governors to be responsible for the maintenance, program planning, and the day to day operation of Beach One. The idea of a Board of Governors, or a Management Board, made up of the Mayor and one, or two, members of Council, plus four or five citizens, would tap a wealth of experience that exists in our community. The citizens would be appointed due to their past experience in one or more of the following fields: property management; entertainment; food service; trade show production; and tourism. It would also remove the day to day management of Beach One from the world of politics, that has hampered the decision making process since the Municipality has taken ownership of the site. The Management By-Law would still leave the elected Council in charge of the purchase and sale of land, approval of annual operating budgets, and the approval of contracts that would commit the Municipality over a set amount of time. No additional staff would be required to operate the facility. It would simply be a case of seconding whatever municipal staff that now “works the site” to the Board of Governors to continue their duties. The only difference would be is that staff would be located on-site at Beach One, and answer to the newly appointed Board. Using an old military phrase, they would answer to the Board but would remain Municipal employees when it came to “Pay and Rations.” The Board would perform their duties under a set of rules and regulations laid down by Council. The idea of a Federal, Provincial, or Municipal Government turning over the operation of a facility or service to a management board is not new. In my career I have served as Chairman of the O`Keefe Centre of the Performing Arts, which was owned by Metro Toronto Council, and Chief General Manager of Exhibition Place, also owned by the Metro Toronto Council. Both facilities thrived under an independent board. Under the Rules of Procedure governing Council, a member who wants to have Council consider a matter, must first present a Notice of Motion, stating the Motion, to the Committee, or Council meeting that would normally deal with such a Motion. The Motion would then be placed on the agenda of the next scheduled meeting of that Committee so that the item may be debated and voted upon. Once the decision of the Committee is ratified by Council, the subject matter is then put into practice. My specific motion is to call upon the C. A.O. to bring a report to Committee of the Whole, addressing the subject of establishing a Board of Governors to carry out the day to day operation of Beach One, for their consideration. The C.A O. will investigate the legality of such a move, as well as investigate the existing boards in other municipalities across the province, along with anything else that he feels will help Council in their consideration of such a decision. He then will report back to the Committee of the Whole who will take the matter on themselves. So, as you can see, a lot of thought and public debate will take place before a final decision is made, I believe that such a move is worthy of consideration.