As expected, the Council meeting on Monday was mostly about the Waterfront study. It went from 4:00pm to 9:30pm, heard 12 delegations on the Waterfront study and had an overflow of spectators who stood at the door or sat on the floor. The intent was to have Council “adopt” the report so that they would have a “framework” to guide future councils and staff on how the waterfront should be developed over the next 25 years – starting in 2019. It was said several times that the report was not an implementation plan and that each time a recommendation was to be implemented, it would come to council for budget and approval. However, the 12 delegations were concerned with what was being recommended – especially as it related to expansion into the West Harbour.
The report was over 500 pages and most councillors agreed that they had not had sufficient time to understand all that it contained and also that the public would not have had enough time so a final vote on adopting the report was deferred to the Council meeting on July 3 instead of on June 11.
Each person who spoke was given 10 minutes then councillors asked questions or commented. Below is a summary which gives an idea of the concerns that citizens have. A photo of the first speaker is at right with the others below.
Jeremy Fowlie, Head Coach of Cobourg Dragon Boat and Canoe Club.
Not against expansion if proved necessary but against boat slips on the west side of the centre pier. Jeremy questioned the Touristics business case and said that consultants Thinc design did not understand the issue since they never came to any Dragon Boat practices. Jeremy acknowledged that a rep from his organization was on the Steering committee that approved the report but that it was a framework and not all items in the report were acceptable.
Nancy Marshall, Past President of the Survivor Thrivers Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Team.
Nancy spoke about the benefit of Dragon boats to Cancer survivors. She acknowledged that they were one of the non-paying user groups but that they paid – but not to the Town. Eight of the approximately 30 paddlers live in Cobourg. She said that they were “a visible reminder that there is life after cancer”.
Margaret Bain, Willow Beach Field Naturalists.
She likes Appendix H which supports the West Beach and headland but the report fails to see the benefit of the West Harbour. She pointed out that slips on the west side of the pier were defeated 2 years ago and that it seems that the wishes of the people were being ignored.
John Geale, Past President, Northumberland Land Trust.
John said that expanding the West Harbour would be detrimental to the natural harbour and “once a natural area is lost, it’s extraordinarily difficult to recover”.
Lydia Smith, President, Cobourg Taxpayers Association (CTA).
See the link below for a copy of her presentation – the basic message was that public input said that West Harbour expansion was not wanted and that it seemed that input by Town staff was over-riding inputs from the public – e.g. the dot exercise. In response to a comment by Brian Darling that revenue generation (by the marina) was looked at to avoid cost to taxpayers, Lydia said that taxpayers are not looking for revenue generation but Town staff are. She pointed out that expansion of the West Harbour was voted down in 2015 and said that the Town staff are lacking in Vision. In response to a question by Gil, Lydia said that CTA was a non-profit group of like-minded people with 206 members.
Mike Hubicki, Commodore, Cobourg Yacht Club (CYC).
Mike said that the Cobourg Yacht club in general supports the report and that boating is one of Cobourg’s feel good features. They contributed $165,000 in fees to Cobourg last year. He mentioned that the club house is available for rental. As one of the few supporters of the report, Mike had a lot of interchange with Councillors. He confirmed that the CYC would no longer be operating the lift-out service although they never saw it as a business. If there was no lift available, boaters would go elsewhere – e.g. Bowmanville. Currently 50 now go elsewhere but many would likely return if a travel lift were available. Mike confirmed that the CYC supports a travel lift. In response to a question from Gil, he said that the typical boat in the club had a value of around $15-$18k and that the typical annual cost of lift-in, lift-out and other services was $2,500 – $3,000 per year. He said they were “privileged, not elite, like everyone in Cobourg”.
Dora Body, Chair, Cobourg Ecology Garden (CEG) Committee
See link below for a copy of her presentation. Dora pointed out that opinions by residents were given before background info was available so more community engagement was called for in a public meeting.
Dennis Nabieszko, Secretary, Cobourg Taxpayers Association
See link below for a copy of his presentation. Lots of citizens at the Council meeting shows lots of interest – but there needs to be time for both the public and council to read and review the report. He said that Council not staff should set priorities and make decisions. Debra McCarthy asked why steering committee meetings were not public? Dean Hustwick said there was nothing underhanded but that the steering committee was not an advisory group and not public(!). Gil said that Council did direct staff. Brian Darling repeated that the plan was “not an implementation plan” and that every recommendation would come to Council for a decision and that there was lots of time to dissect and analyze before anything was implemented. It could be months or years before any action.
Gavin McGuire, Environmental Intern and Gudrun Ludorf-Weaver President of Sustainable Cobourg.
Gavin said that slips on the West side of the centre pier were turned down in 2014. He called for the Marina to get Blue Flag status and pursue environmentally friendly initiatives like renting out kayaks. Cobourg could become an eco-tourism destination. See links below for the full presentation.
Bob Fler, Director Learn to Sail Program.
Bob said that the Yacht club brings added value to Cobourg and it’s the Marina’s biggest customer. He said that the Marina should be responsible for lift-in/lift-out. He thought that expansion may not be needed, just a re-work.
Vivian Vandenhazel, Cobourg Resident.
Vivian wanted the east pier reserved for pedestrians; she noted that there are actually fewer boating users so there’s no need to expand; she also noted that compared to Kingston, Cobourg already has a lot more slips than Kingston; she questioned the business case for the travel lift – it should be based on the current number of boats. She had previously asked “what was the capacity of the beach?” but has not yet received an answer. She asked that the town please stop treating the beach as a resource to be exploited.
Harold Wontorra, Cobourg Resident
He was planning to make a presentation but had too little time to read the report so was unable to do so.
Director Dean Hustwick’s response
Dean gave a fairly long response to the delegations – here is a summary:
- Very little direction was given to the consultants by staff – the Town is relying on their expertise.
- There are 83 recommendations spread over 25 years and it’s up to council to make a final decision
- Many recommendations are inter-related
- It is not intended that every aspect be debated tonight
- Anything requiring funds or staff has to come to council
- Tourism has been a factor for Cobourg since before Federation and a strong majority believe it’s important for Cobourg
- The Harbour has been a driver for Cobourg since the 19th century
- These recommendations will cost millions – either the taxpayer or the marina will have to pay. It will cost $50k for just a report on the condition of the East pier.
- The Marina consistently operates at a profit
- The Marina has been able to accumulate a reserve fund to pay for future capital costs – it now stands at $351K
- The harbour also brings in substantial revenue to local businesses
- The campground is also profitable
- Parking brings in revenue which is higher because of tourists.
Gina Brouwer, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee added that the report is a framework and will go back to the public as required.
The Consultants then gave their lengthy report with Power Point Slides which were slightly expanded from the one supplied in the Council meeting agenda – which was the same as provided earlier. See links below for the one that was provided. They emphasized that the 2000 survey responses they received were unprecedented.
They gave a short rationalization for the expansion of the West harbour:
- Because people want improvements
- But do not want taxes to pay for these
- Therefore more harbour activity is required so the marina can pay for the improvements.
The consultants were looking for give and take of the various groups, a compromise between more slips and other users.
They said there is a strong business case to expand and not wanting expansions is an emotional position. Few of the 2000 surveyed were against marina expansion (Maybe because they thought the issue was closed – Ed).
Final Councillor comments
Gil asked the Consultants whether they would change any of the recommendations after hearing the delegations and the answer was No.
Debra asked if there was a way to charge visitors for use of the Waterfront – e.g. like Parks Canada does for their Parks. The answer was that it would not be practical.
Gil said that if you don’t want to subsidize the marina, it has to be expanded. There needs to be compromises.
John Henderson raised the subject that since there had been little time for the public or Councillors to read and review the study, that final approval (adoption) should be deferred to the Council meeting on July 3 instead on June 11. After debate, his amendment was passed 6 to 1 with Mayor Brocanier wanting no delay since it was not expected to be changed. The others felt that since there would be no action until Spring 2019 at the earliest, there was no hurry.
Post Script: At the end of the meeting Mayor Brocanier put forward a motion that would “Restrict future delegations on the Waterfront Study to different presenters who had new information only that must be submitted for approval prior to delegation status approval”. His idea is that he doesn’t want people presenting the same old information. His motion passed.
- CTA Presentation by Lydia Smith
- Dennis Nabieszko Presentation
- Ecology Garden Presentation
- Sustainable Cobourg Presentation – Powerpoint in pdf format
- Consultants Presentation – Powerpoint in pdf format
- Main Consultant’s report of Waterfront Study
- Appendices to report – Note that the justification for the Marina expansion and travel lift is in Appendix I.
Update June 11, 2018
On June 9, former Deputy Mayor Stan Frost sent a letter to Councillors that criticized the Motion that Gil proposed that restricted delegations. He suggested that “restricting/filtering/approving delegations is not something an elected council should engage in. In fact it is possibly illegal.” He also asked that the issue of slips west of the centre pier be dealt with firmly and quickly. He said that “Many people were quite stunned that this issue came back on the table after having been dealt with previously by Council.”
At Monday’s Council meeting, Gil’s motion was withdrawn.