Thursday was not a good day for Beachway Park residents. Major battle ahead keeping homes in the park.

September 27th, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Thursday was not a good day for the residents in the Beachway Park.  The Regions Waterfront Beachway Park Advisory Committee that is made up of regional Councillors and citizens met and supported a decision to buy up every house they can and demolish them for park space. If there was an upside to their decision it was that any buying would be done on a willing buyer, willing seller basis – which means no expropriation.

The Regional Advisory Committee is reported to have vote 9-3 for the recommendations with Councillor Sharman one of the three that voted against the recommendation.  The two Burlington citizen members of the Advisory Committee are not identified on the Region’s web site.  Councillor Craven voted for the recommendation.

The recommendation was for the Advisory Committee to support the long-term strategic vision for the acquisition of all private property in the park.

The difficulty with this recommendation is that when Burlington was debating this issue it couldn’t find any record of a long-term vision.  There were certainly studies in the files, some that go back as far as the mid 80’s but nothing in the way of a policy statement saying all the homes were to be bought should they become available.

A Regional Comprehensive Report identified two clusters of homes in the Beachway Park – some want every one of them bull-dozed into the ground and make available for parking spaces.  The housing clusters in place now are shown in red.

While the report from the Advisory is just a recommendation it is nevertheless significant.  Many feel it is an indication of the direction the Regional Council is likely to go when it comes to a final decision.

The Advisory recommendation will go to the Regional Committee that handles this file.  They will vote on the matter and send their decision along to Regional Council where a final decision gets made.

Recently Conservation Halton, which is responsible for the environmental aspects of the park chose not to recommend that any land be bought.  While the decision at Conservation Halton was a tie vote – and therefore is seen as lost.

The Region’s Planning Department recently published a Comprehensive Report which didn’t get much in the way of positive reaction from anyone in Burlington and was seen as a somewhat biased document that chose to highlight issues the Region saw as important but ignore for the most part the local issues and the value of community in a park setting.

The Region’s report covered flooding issues in a way that was significantly different from the recollection of people who lived in the Beachway when the flooding took place.  Houses were said to be at significant risk while the water sewage treatment plant which has floors beneath the land surface was not said to be at risk.

Quite why some level of government did not ask that the report be retracted was a surprise to some people.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city last December. Scobie went on to sit on the Ad Hoc Waterfront Committee.

Gary Scobie, A Burlington resident, chose to delegate at the Advisory meeting – the only person to do so, said: “You have heard from us before and I believe you know that we support the continued existence and enhancement of the Burlington Beach residential community.  We do this because we’ve studied the issue, as citizens from each ward with no financial ties to the beach area, and weighed the costs to buy out and destroy a historic community against the benefit of gaining a small amount of land to be added to the park.”

Scobie continued: “We find the case for community destruction wanting, especially because the community poses no harm to the public use of the park beach, shoreline habitat or walking path.  In fact, we see the residents as unpaid custodians of the park, looking after people who need help and watching out for vandalism.  Our survey completed by nearly 450 Burlington residents from all wards.”

Scobie who is a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee, an Ad Hoc group that was formed when Burlington’s city council sunset the Advisory Committee it had.

The residents are very vocal – they think the Burlington policy is a serious mistake. They somehow have to get their voice heard at the Regional level – with the voice from the city is pretty weak.

The residents with homes in Beachway Park have a fight on their hands and they are going to have to lobby hard to get their argument in front of the members of Regional Council.  It is not an impossible task and it would certainly help if the support from their city council were a little stronger.

The family in this home does not expect to be a willing seller to anyone. The city and the Region, especially the current city Councillor for the ward thinks the city and the Region can just wait them out. Lousy way to run a city.

The real hope for the community is that any property sold is to be on a willing buyer, willing seller basis, and all the residents have to do is just not sell.

There has been some chatter amongst Beachway residents about a possible class action law suit against the city and the Region for the damages suffered by the property owners over the loses they have incurred due to municipal and regional government policies that artificially depressed property prices.

Wouldn’t that be a cock fight?

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