“you never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”: Beachway home sold for $600,000

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

January 16, 2015


Many readers will recognize the headline – the phrase 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”.

Beachway Park - aerial view

Beachway – once a small community of more than 150 homes with its own services has been whittled down to 30 homes – each has a date with a wrecking ball.

The Beachway Community is may not seem like “paradise” to some; one unsuccessful candidate in the recent municipal election was appalled at the thought that people would live and raise families there. Councillor Blair Lancaster once told her colleagues that when she was a young lady “nice girls” didn’t go to that part of the city”.

Nice girls didn’t go to that part of the city.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”. 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 lost the vote – a local community was earmarked for destruction.


These homes on the lake side of LAkeshore Court, neat and well kept, will meet their fate with a backhoe if the Region manages to buy all of them.

The Beachway is in ward 1 – Councillor Craven provided absolutely no support to that community during the debate. He wants to see every house razed and a park created. Craven’s rationale is that speculators and developers will buy up the properties and in time there will be nothing but condominiums in that part of town

There has been no love lost between the current Beachway community and the ward Councillor. On one occasion he felt his personal safety was at risk and asked someone to escort him to his car which was parked 25 yards away.

The BWC sees the razing of homes in the Beachway as an unnecessary loss of community. But it was a done deal. The Region would buy up the homes on a willing buyer/willing seller basis and over time they would eventually own all 30 properties and Burlington would get another park. That’s where things were left.

The Region sort of budgeted $330,000 per home. The BWC wants to now question the associated economics and business case with the benefit of new information.

Laura Gillespie points out the part of the Beachway that affects her the most - the spot where her house is located.

Laura Gillespie points out the part of the Beachway that affects her the most – the spot where her house is located.

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. The BWC 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.

Beachway 1011 sold for $600k

Sold for $600,000 to the Region, current owner gets to live in the house for two more years.

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”.

Beachway - east - lakeside looking north - dynamic beach

Parking in the Beachway is currently on what is referred to as a “dynamic beach – on the lake side of Lakeshore Road. The intention appears to be to spend million to buy up homes on the west side, tear them down and make that space a parking lot.

The BWC asks: “What is the plan once the Beachway homes are all demolished over time?” The Region’s “Park Plan” is not complete they advise, “so we only have the latest “Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan” to go by.

What hasn’t been made all that well known is that Burlington’s Parks and Recreation department has a small team working away on early design plans.

No word yet on when they will show what they have come up with to the public. We don’t know if there are “professional park designers” involved either.

Under the list of elements that the park zone is envisioned to include 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.

Another section of the Plan notes that “with the entire beach area as parkland” 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, said the BWC, buying half the houses, tearing them down, cleaning up the mess and paving it over, will give residents a parking lot that could cost over $10 million of taxpayer money. Arguably, it would be the most expensive parking lot in Burlington – we are getting into Brant Street Pier pricing here.

Arguably, it would be the most expensive parking lot in Burlington – we are getting into Brant Street Pier pricing here.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.

Councillor Cravem inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway - thinks the place could sereve as the Official Residece for the Ward Counillor

Councillor Craven inspecting the Pump House on the Beachway – thinks the place could serve as the Official Residence for the Ward Councillor.  When his vision of the Beachway is complete – it may be the only structure left standing.

Take it as a given that Councillor Craven keeps himself fully briefed – he has always made a point of creating and maintaining strong relationships with staff.

Take it as a given as well that Councillor Craven is not going to share what he knows unless he absolutely has to – and even then – you won’t get the full picture.

The Burlington Waterfront Committee meets regularly, usually on the second Wednesday of each month – check their web site

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5 comments to “you never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot”: Beachway home sold for $600,000

  • Glenn Gillespie

    Well shannon

    Perhaps we should come and visit your home and see if it would
    Make a suitable park or even a parking lot . If you really want to give a educated response to a very delicate and sensitive
    Subject . You might want to maybe go down to the community and speak to some of the home owners especially the ones that have lived there for 60 years and have also lived under the threat of losing there homes for the last 40 years. I’m sure when you bought your home one of the considerations was that someday your home would gain value .try living with rules that create a one buyer market which is the region because they have mislead and I believe slandered the residence down there by saying one is being forced from there homes . whch is a lie .if there was not a acquisition policy and people could sell there homes without this cloud of doubt the homes would be worth a great deal more then what the region and politician that have drive this would pay . Please next time you want to make a point get the facts .im sure your much more educated then your commet make you look .
    Good day

  • Helen Skinner

    Hello Shannon,
    I am a current Beachway resident. My husband and I have lived in this unique part of Burlington for 13 years. When we purchased, contrary to Ward 1 Councilor Rick Craven’s belief…we were not informed by our real estate agent, the City, the Region or our lawyer about any public wish list. The same holds true for most of the homeowners who purchased after us including Katherine Hensell who practices law. Somewhere along the line there is a great disconnect with disclosure…but then again, why would we worry – “no expropriation” you say. That is correct…but the bargaining tool my friend is that whether you, I or the Burlington residents see a parking lot or fields of overgrown grass (there is no budget for additional maintenance. You’ll notice the current maintenance is challenged)…the value of our homes are severly jeapardized by those who believe that we have leadership at the helm – but hey I’m glad that you’re happy paying million of dollars for a parking lot!!! What the residernts of the Beachway do know – is exactly what they have and that is something that the Region wants. A beautiful piece of property sitting by the Lake and one of Ontario’s finest beaches and it won’t be a paved paradise anytime soon!!!

  • Shannon Gillies

    Joan Little from the Hamilton Spectator wrote an excellent piece on why this was a good, responsible decision on the part of Regional Council (a 16-5 vote):


    Acquiring properties along the beach had been policy for decades, but when purchases stopped, residents wanted to know what was happening, which was a fair request.

    This decision, while not popular with everyone, shows long term thinking and consideration for future generations. As Burlington grows, it will become incredibly difficult create new green spaces. This is an opportunity to do just that.

    No properties are being expropriated. No one is being forced from their homes. The whole thing’s not being turned into one giant parking lot. We’ll probably all be dead by the time it turns into a big, beautiful park, but that’s what true leadership is about: thinking about and doing what makes the most sense for the future.

    • Mike Ettlewood


      I don’t particularly agree with your perspective on this but I do appreciate the fact that you’re willing to put forward an opposing opinion. It’s a complex issue and the cost metrics of the whole thing should probably be re-examined. For me the main “take-away” is that once again, Burlington Council failed to provide “leadership” and allowed another constituency to determine the fate of a local community.

  • Mike Ettlewood

    Or, if you are really “in tune”, “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma”