Beach Master Plan Review gets its first appearance on stage. Most feel it needs much more rehearsal before the bright lights.



 By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. May 10, 2013.  The Beachway Master Plan – one of those projects that has been going on forever,  finally got to Burlington’s city council.  It didn’t get a round of applause but it did get a thorough trouncing with more questions from Council than the three people presenting the report were able to answer.

Many of the questions were tabled giving staff time to dig out the answers.

The area studied in the Beachway report is on the left.  A prime focus is the residential properties show in red – there are 30 homes in the area

Reality took a bit of a hit during the lengthy meeting at which the public and city council went through a report that was biased at best and lacked any imagination whatsoever.  It seemed to focus on getting the residents out of the parkland and, as Councillor Meed Ward put it “create space for parking cars”.

It was a long report, a complex report; one that required more than the five or six days the residents of the Beachway Park community had to read it and digest the contents.

It wasn’t clear if the Region, which produced the report, had made an early draft available to Burlington for comment.

Wednesday evening was a meeting to receive the report from the Region and to give the public an opportunity to comment.  In the past the Beachway residents have been very vocal, close to disruptive at times, with good reason- the report talked about their homes and there are people at the Region who want to put them out on the street.  There was a previous public meeting, a workshop that was looking for ideas and views on what might be done with the Beachway.

There are some in that community who are prepared to sell their property to the Region but they want a decent price – which is something the Region claims it has not been able to do.  More on that below.

The Beachway falls in Councillor Rick Craven’s ward and he hand delivered copies to the 30 homes in the community.

Residents on the Beachway have spent thousands of dollars to upgrade their properties – this is where they live and where they want to stay. One of the better examples of improved properties is this house on Lakeshore Road

Wednesday evening they were ably represented by Glen Gillespie who gave council a passionate view of the community, the parkland and what could be done.  He entertained them and to some degree informed them as well,  but it isn’t the city that is driving this agenda – and the community does not appear to have been able to get through to the Regional people.

At the end of the meeting Council made it clear to the Regional people that they had a lot of questions and didn’t see this as being anywhere near a done deal.  Problem is the city doesn’t have all that much clout on this one and there isn’t a clear vision from the city as to what it wants to do – at least not yet.

There is no clear leadership from this Council on the issue.  Craven seems to lack any imagination on the file and is more concerned about encroachment of public property by the residents – he has a point on that one – than he has about the bigger picture which is what does Burlington want to see done with the parkland?

Craven has a habit of asking “incisive questions” in an almost prosecutorial manner that usually results in a ‘no’ from the person being questioned and then sits back looking as if he has made a major point.  Wednesday evening he asked each of the Beachway residents if they were aware of the provincial policy related to properties on the Beachway.  Did you ask your lawyer or your real estate agents about any provincial policy, Craven asked.  Get real Councillor – real estate agents tell you about the granite counter tops, the “ensuite” bathrooms and the hardwood floors.

Acting General Manager Chris Glenn directed the meeting. After two hours of presentations, delegations and some questions Glenn broke the discussion into four areas and did his best to channel the flow of conversation along those paths.

While the focus of the Beachway report was on flooding, the dynamic beach and the residential housing there are three other very large users of the area.  Joseph Brant Hospital will face Lakeshore Road when it completes its re-build, the Ministry of transportation has a large equipment yard on the west side of Lakeshore and the Waste water treatment plant, currently undergoing a massive upgrade is also in the area.

Land use – what use was the land that is owned by the Conservation Authority, leased to the city and comes under policy created at the Region, going to be put to?

Much is made of the flooding hazard – and there have been very significant floods in the past.  The focus of the Beachway Review report has been on what flooding will do to the residential homes – much less said about the impact flooding will have on the waste water treatment plant and the hospital – both of which are in the flood plain.

Flooding: what is the flooding issue?  There are a lot of misconceptions in the minds of many; some outright fear mongering on the part of Regional staff; data that is true one week but not true the next and a bit of a “not telling the whole story” on the part of the bureaucrats.  The residents deserve better and Burlington has to press the Region and the Conservation Authority quite a bit harder to get the truth out on the table about the flooding threat.

Servicing the community and the park in general.  The Region states that it is parkland and therefore cannot be serviced but there is a Pavilion that has water and waste service; a Pump House the city would love to lease out to someone, that has water and waste  service and then there is a waste water treatment plant right smack in the middle of the community.  The residents feel, quite legitimately, that they are being had.

A layout showing the location of the private homes in the Beachway Park.  The Region appears to want to want to buy the properties – the residents say that if the Region is going to purchase they want a fair price.  Some think the Region wants the property for future parking when use of the park expands.

Examples of some of the homes in the Beachway that residents want to keep.

The last subject areas was “acquisition” – how is the Region going to acquire the homes if that is what this all comes down to, then the practice they have followed the past five years has been a total failure.  Of the eight properties that came up for sale – the Region managed to get just the one.  All the others sold privately – one for double what the Region offered.

The report, it actually has the word “comprehensive” in its title – chose to be selective in what it put its spotlight on.  There were a number of critical decisions made in previous reports that go back to the 70’s, that got brushed over.  The writers of the report chose to pick parts of previous document that supported their viewpoint.

There is much more delving into to be done on the file.  However, there is a clock ticking – the Region has put a schedule in place that has the report going to the Planning and Public works committee in October.

There were four delegations before Council; three from people who had homes in the Beachway and a third from the Burlington Waterfront Committee, the eye on the waterfront created by Councillor Marianne Meed Ward when the Waterfront Access Protection and Advisory Committee was sunset by city Council.

The three residents were crystal clear on what they wanted – either give us a fair price for our homes or clear up the zoning mess and let us remain where we want to be.

The Waterfront group came out very strongly for keeping the community on the Beachway.

Based on the “pie in the sky” view the Region has put forward and the fear mongering they did Burlington is going to have to get its act together and form a plan that it wants to advance.

Spencer Smith Park, which is the eastern part of our Waterfront, is nicely developed and works for everyone.  Time now to decide what the city would like to see done with the western end.  Time may be the one thing the city and the residents don’t have.

There was a time when the Beachway part of Burlington was a small but robust community with its own stores and  police service.  That time is part of the city’s history – which got precious little mention in the report received by city council last Wednesday.

The roll out schedule for this is:

Presentation to the Regional Waterfront Parks Advisory Committee: June 26 and August 21, 2013

Presentation to Conservation Halton Board on June 27, 2013

Back to the Burlington Community Services Committee Sept 11, 2013

Region of Halton Planning and Public works committee October 3, 2013,  

The October meeting is where the direction to be taken will be determined and the actual creation of  the Master Plan will begin.

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