Finally, advice and direction from Waterfront Advisory Committee. Great idea – but no one is sure they will be around to see it through.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 14, 2012  At last, finally – they are going to do something and the troops in the trenches are delighted with themselves – pumped up if you will, but that might be too much of a pun.  The Waterfront Access Advisory Committee passed a motion asking the city to let someone in the private sector look at the Pump House on the Beachway and turn it into a coffee shop

Ward 2 Councillor Rick Craven, whose ward the Pump House is in,  is very much for this project – so much so that he thought the building could serve as the Official Residence for the Ward Councillor.  Donna Mae Ankrett thinks it will make a great pub, others on the Waterfront Committee just want to see something happen along the Beachway but more importantly for all of them – them, they just want to see something done by their committee.

Members of the Waterfront Advisory Access Committee inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway. From the left Chair Nick Leblovic, Michael O'Sullivan, Ken Martin, Jeff Martin, Donna Mae Ankrett and Gary Scobie. Smiles here but in reality not the happiest crew.

This is a committee that has struggled finding itself and finding its mission and purpose.  It has yet to take an real advice to city council.  For the past two years it has struggled with figuring out what it wants to be and why it is there.  The mandate it was given is not one they fully understand and it has suffered by very poor leadership.

While discussing the motion, the meeting, that was made up of 12 committee members, the chair and the clerk along with two city staffers, got noisier than I have heard it since its inception.  But this was positive noise, they wanted to see this project take place or at least move forward and out of the Advisory Committee.

Committee chair Nicholas Leblovic hesitated and continually wanted to talk about all the things that could go wrong; that no one would invest the amount needed to fix up the building, that the kitchen needed too much work.  His committee members just wanted to get the idea out of the committee and into the real world where someone could express some interest and know where to go if they wanted to follow up on the idea.

Turning the Pump House on the Beachway into either a coffee shop or a pub may be the only useful thing the Waterfront Access Advisory Committee gets done before Council decides to disband it. The Windows on the Lake work the Committee did, is going nowhere at City Hall.

The committee wanted to get some life on the Beachway and create something that will draw people to the area which many on the committee believe is a hidden gem a five minute drive from city hall.

The members of the committee have struggled for some time with the style Leblovic has used as chair.  Documents go round and round with review after review.  While there is the appearance of a group of people working towards a common goal that is far from the case with this committee that thirsts for leadership and direction.

The Advisory committee put a ton of work and time into the idea for a design competition for the Old Lakeshore Road precinct.  They got the idea from former Toronto Mayor David Crombie but couldn’t manage to get it off the ground even though a city council committee was prepared to support them.

When Gary Scobie, a member of the committee, appeared before a city council committee asking for funding to proceed with the idea, the committee liked what he was talking about but needed more detail before they would let any city money get used for an idea that wasn’t as well formulated as it needed to be.

Councillor Craven inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway - thinks the place could serve as the Official Residence for the Ward Councillor

The presentation of the idea was a little like one of those things you see a technology start up taking to venture capitalists and getting turned down because all the vital and necessary supportive data just wasn’t in place..  Council committee nevertheless was supportive.

There was more support at a city council committee than there appeared to be within the Advisory Committee when then committee member Sarah Banks worked hard to pull together the information on an idea she was very passionate about.  Banks just didn’t have the support that was needed to make it work, and when she resigned from the Advisory Committee, the idea died and shortly after the Waterfront people decided to give up on it.

Banks and her family moved to Ottawa where one can be absolutely certain that Sarah Banks will be involved.  She was a fish out of the kind of water she needed in Burlington.  She brought charm and grace and a gritty determination to most of what she did.  The soil in this city may have been great for apples and other fruit but it wasn’t the kind of ground Banks needed.  The famed Burlington orchards are gone and so is Sarah Banks.  I’m not sure her committee members even thanked her for her efforts.

The motion to ask Council to consider the idea appeared to pass unanimously but the Waterfront Access Advisory Committee does things a little differently and you never know quite who is doing what.  What was unmistakable was the energy and enthusiasm that rushed through the room when it was passed and is now in the hands of Councillor Craven, who will take it to a Council committee meeting next week.  Ward 1 Councillor Meed Ward was onside and the city general manager who will have to handle the file once Council pronounces on it was in the room and very much onside.

Finally, there was movement and then a hiccup.

Les Armstrong quietly mentioned that the Historical Society had received a letter from a group of  Toronto architects asking for as much information as the Society could give on the Pump House.  Armstrong thought they had been commissioned to do a renovation on the property – but he wasn’t sure.  No one within the city had heard anything about this one – and no one seemed to follow up on it at the meeting.  City general manager of Community Services, Scott Stewart,  will have made a note of it though.

What wasn’t all that clear at the end of the meeting was just how much life there is left in the Waterfront Access Advisory Committee which is sending an exhaustive document to city council Committee on both its terms of reference, to which it wants to make some changes and its mandate which isn’t all that clear to the committee.  There is also a suggestion that the name of the committee be changed.  There are many who are wagering that the committee will be wound up by the end of the year – unless some of the more courageous members do something drastic and get  themselves a new chair and show council that they know how to advise and understand what their job is.


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