CDCI West Playing Field being readied for Sale

When the CDCI West School was sold, the sale did not include the land behind the school used for sports.  In Cobourg, this is prime waterfront land and occupies (by my estimate) about 1.4 Hectares or 3.6 acres.  It fronts onto Durham Street.  For 15 years, the school board had a hand shake agreement with the Town allowing a boardwalk to be built across the unused part of the land near the West beach.  This easement was never formally/legally setup because the School Board said they had “no intention of developing the property in a manner inconsistent with the Town’s continued use of the easement”.  But now, the situation has changed and the School Board wants an official/legal easement but with a 9 month right to terminate with the Town obligated to remove the boardwalk.

Boardwalk crossing School property
Boardwalk crossing School property

Even though the boardwalk crosses land that is not particularly suitable for building and is classified by Zoning as having an Environmental constraint, the School Board did not want any restrictions (or easements) that would deter a potential buyer.

Since there is no current legal document, the Town is in a poor negotiating position so had to accept the termination condition or risk having to immediately remove the boardwalk since it crosses land owned by School Board.

A new easement agreement that includes the termination condition was brought before council at their meeting on April 29 (see link below).  It passed with no discussion which suggests that it had previously been discussed with councillors in a closed session.

The other conclusion that one can make is that the School Board is seriously considering putting the land up for sale.  It’s possible that William Academy would be interested but given the likely price (in the multi-millions), it’s not likely they would be a buyer.  Therefore, the land will likely be sold to a developer.  Once the land is sold, it will need to be rezoned from the current OS – Open Space.  Although it’s not in a heritage district, expect more public meetings and objections because of NIMBY’ism.  However, we can hope that any buyer would accept an easement for the boardwalk to stay where it is.  It is a popular feature.

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Wally Keeler

I trust Cobourg has a fee for new construction that funds public art. I would suggest that the developer fee go towards engraving poetry into the boardwalk. Invite each Poet Laureate to contribute a 10 line poem to be engraved using a router and stencil into the boardwalk. One line of the poem on one plank. Let it evolve into a Bardwalk.

Semi old codger

What happened to “For Stanza Use Only”

Wally Keeler

Cobourg does not have a Poet Laureate yet to address that issue. That sidewalk attraction has been battered every winter by ploughs and salt and restored three times. This recent winter was the worst. There is a plan to replace it with purple cement, and impress the letters 1/4 inch into the cement which will be filled with yellow paint. This will allow the plough to scrape right over it without removing paint, and no need for repairs year after year. Here is it’s unveiling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmnDVOe4NOY .

Albert

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
What does all this have to do with the topic?

Semi Old Codger

Wally is suggesting that a portion of the boardwalk could become a “boardwalk” for poetry.
There is an existing Staza place for poetry on King Street East in Cobourg that is currently lookingbthe worse for wear. I took the opportunity to enquire about this. Wally has explained that hopefully the Stanza place will be renovated an improved. His reply also implies that the Bardwalk and the Stanza place can co-exist. I was pleased to hear this as I think both would contibute to the cultural experience of Cobourg. I expect some other readers were also pleased hear this.

Thank you for asking.

Wally Keeler

STANZA ROOM ONLY has hosted poetry of over 43 poets from Cobourg and from across Canada. It has hosted some of the most outstanding poets in Canada. It is a small means to bring some eloquence to our streets. Of course there are billboards and signs all over the place selling this or that with words, words, words. They make language mediocre. The literacy level of our young people is something to lament. While the mediocre zzzzzzzzzzz, others sharpen their intelligence with elevated uses of language.

Dan

The young people are entirely literate. They just perhaps don’t read what you read.

Wally Keeler
Dan

That article is pretty light on details. The most glaring flaws being “There’s no comparative data to show whether this is an increase, decrease, or maintenance relative to the same cohort 10, 20, 40 years ago” and “Nothing here demonstrating where exactly they’ve gotten their idea of what is necessary/needed for “today’s job market” or even what they’ve concluded IS necessary.” Other studies show that people under 30 read more books than people over 30, and that people in highschool read more books than people in their early 20s. When you consider the kind of standards “for today’s job market” that people currently over 50 believe to be necessary and then look at what is actually going on in businesses run and staffed by younger people, I think there’s a pretty solid disconnect there that isn’t even mentioned, let alone accounted for in the article you linked. If your vision of the job market is to graduate from university, acquire a full time job, and then work at that career for a decade or more, for example (Which is a pretty common vision held by people currently over about 45 years old) then your vision of both the reality of… Read more »

Ben

If I understand it all school board property has to be offered to other public agencies, that includes the Town, first. If that is the case I vote to transfer the next two years of dividend money from Holdco and the Northam park to buy this property. The Town cannot say they do not have the money to do this and just remember when the severed off land stays in the Town’s ownership the remainder will be sold off for more than we paid for it. Sweet deal and we don’t lose any money in the long run. There are plenty of successful realtors and developers who would want a piece of this action. But we have to own it first.

Wally Keeler

Hmmmmm! Nice idea, very nice idea.

Walter Luedtke

As is usually the case, you are right Ben.
‘The KPR Board’s Real Estate Disposal Committee oversees the disposition of real estate. In disposing of surplus real estate, the Board will ensure that, in the best interests of the public, all would-be purchasers have an equal chance; therefore, an open market opportunity is used to obtain the price most advantageous to the Board.
In accordance with Ontario Regulation 444/98, government agencies and community partners are notified when the school board has surplus property available for purchase. If none of these parties are interested in purchasing the land, at fair market value, it is made available for purchase to the general public.’
Interesting in this case is the fact that taxpayers’ interests are involved on both sides of a possible Board/Town transaction.
Thus depend on the Board no to do Cobourg any favours.
Curious to see what the ‘fair market value’ will turn out to be.

Jim Thomas

If this is another of those situations where the property goes all the way to the waterline, I would really want to see the beach portion severed and donated to the town for public use.
Imagine, otherwise, if a developer grabs it and claims exclusive right to access to the whole beach portion, fencing and all. right to the water’s edge.
Ideally, some entity would acquire the property, donate the beach, and even possibly sell the rest at a profit.

Fact Checker

Why risk relying on the chance of a donation. A “not from here” developer would have no incentive or motivation to donate a prime piece of property to the Town. As an alternative, the Town could buy the property, sever the beach section and sell the remaining large piece. Nice, neat and under full control of the Town

Kyle

Actually in Cobourg many properties extend well beyond the “water line” out into the lake. Therefore the current “water line” is not an accurate indicator of the property boundaries.

At one time the Provincial Government was considering a right of traverse bill which would have given legality to walking along the current water line to traverse the great lakes. The bill for whatever reasons did not get passed. Too bad, it seems reasonable to legislate the activity which would take away liability from property owners and only condone traversing not camping etc.

Ben

Actually Kyle in the 90s a revision to the Official Plan did put an environmental constraint line on the map of Cobourg 30 metres back from the actual land on the map. The first test of it was an application from the property owner who had purchased the land where the “log Hall” was situated. This residence “burnt down” in a spectacular fashion. Anyway the owner made an application to remove the restraints on his property to Council and they acquiesced. Such a great pity as the opportunity to gain the first step to a lakefront trail was lost. I cannot remember but does the new development on King St. next to Maher St have the 30metre restraints and public access – if not why not?

West Beacher

With the CDCI West closing, and no move by the Town to secure the playing field for municipal use, it seemed inevitable to me that one day, there would be a move by the Schoolboard to sell the land for development. But the fact that the boardwalk easement portion of the property was not legally bound seems incredibly short sighted on the part of the municipality. The boardwalk is an essential component of our waterfront, and every effort should be made to complete it from the west harbor to the creek. If it takes a buyout or expropriation of an ROW across the one holdout property, it’s time to explore the options.
As other commenters have suggested, the land is prime for residential development. Should it come to that eventually, surely the plan agreement the Town negotiates would require that the Environmental Constraint portion of the lands must be part of the parkland dedication, thereby securing the boardwalk ROW.

Miriam Mutton

Perhaps the school board leadership will join the many young people around the world, including its own students, who are becoming increasingly involved in matters concerning their futures. Like climate change and the environment. Protecting the lake shore and west beach area for future generations not only preserves a valuable public and environmental asset, if a stewardship agreement is prepared properly, the lake views from the property the school board wants to sell would still be protected while also (likely) reducing the high tax bill so often accompanying waterfront properties with shoreline.

And, to Doug’s and Walter’s notes … definitely not an impossible dream. In this day and age of people like Greta Thunberg and the speed of news over social media, I hope the school board leadership realizes it could cause international news by its actions.

Walter Luedtke

Hi Miriam.
I would be interested in your thoughts on the latest Provincial initiative on Endangered Species.
“Ontario is proposing to create Canada’s first independent Crown agency proposed to be called the Species at Risk Conservation Trust, to allow municipalities or other infrastructure developers the option to pay a charge into a species at risk trust in lieu of completing certain on-the-ground activities required by the act.
The board-governed provincial agency would make informed, unbiased and expert decisions on how to best employ the funds to support strategic, coordinated and large-scale actions that assist in protection and recovery for species at risk.
This new approach will give greater certainty to business and better enable positive outcomes for species at risk compared to the current piece-meal industry-led approach.”
Is there an advantage to “strategic, co-ordinated and large scale action”, rather than local initiatives calling for nature preserves here and there?

Miriam Mutton

hi Walter, Like an OMB? The sentence in quotes from the proposal seems to suggest that writing a cheque is a justifiable solution and will forgive all. Evidence based decision-making includes on-the-ground activities like data collection and understanding how resilient systems thrive. It is typically the sum and interaction of many little parts. It is my understanding that experts are preparing to respond to the Ontario government proposal. Remember the proposed cormorant hunt? Turns out endangered species like the protected, few in number, native white pelican nests in the same area as cormorants. (Where is beloved local editorial cartoonist Barry King! … I can see a cormorants at the negotiating table with business sketch ‘ensuring positive outcomes for species at risk’) To your last question, initiatives are needed and necessary at all levels … local, regional. national and global. Leadership starts at any level but local support is essential and can be the spark to ignite action. For example, a recent local acquisition of a significant wetland area by major partners Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada (with support of a number of local organizations, federal and local governments, and both public and private donors) resulted from the… Read more »

Ben

It gets worse some eagle-eye at the TO Star has discovered an insert to a housing bill that would change protection for endangered species. Seems like the endangered species here is a transparent politician.

Walter Luedtke

comment image
The sale of the old playing field is happening just when the good old OMB is coming back.
Developers are delighted and the NIMBYs not so much.
Ford’s new omnibus More Homes, More Choice Act will affect 13 Ontario laws from the Environmental Protection and Endangered Species acts to the Ontario Heritage and Planning acts.
The main knock against the old OMB rules was that it “was heavy-handed and heavily favoured developers — people with the greatest dollars — so they can force developments they want on neighbourhoods,”
I should think that the change will make the old playing field even more attractive to developers.

Doug Weldon

I’m a dreamer. THE WATERFRONT ! ! ! OK, the school property currently being used for the board walk should be in the hands of the people. Absolutely! But what is really needed is a waterfront ecological park that connects from Cobourg to Port Hope. This would take a lot of work from ALL politicians from both towns. Everyone working together. This is one of the few pieces of Lake Ontario waterfront that is mostly in a natural state – and it should be preserved! Perhaps a walking path could join the two towns. Habitat for a million birds.

Is this an impossible dream? Once it is gone it will be gone forever. Everybody would have to work together. No doubt some land would have to be expropriated to link all parts and a few jogs from the water would occur such as at Pebble Beach.

Who wants to jump behind this idea. Cobourg Council, Port Hope Council, the Provincial Member of Parliament and the Federal Member of Parliament. Join in and you will certainly have my vote!

Hope I,m not the only dreamer.

Doug Weldon

I am surprised by the 7 Dislikes. Why would 7 people not want the Lake Ontario waterfront preserved from Cobourg to Port Hope? What could possible be wrong with that idea? Imagine in future years when instead of 50,000 people living in this area that there is 150,000 or 200,000 but in spite of that old codgers like us could take their Grand Children out for a beach front walk between our neighbour towns. Would it be better to have high rise buildings and development all the way along? Please explain your objections.

Durka

I’m with you there Doug, very odd. Perhaps they have houses along the lakeshore, lol.

Wally Keeler

I think it would be a matter of encouraging health. Not just a walk along that length of beach, but to include a bicycle path / jogging path, safely away from motor traffic. There’s some interesting wetlands. A couple utility poles could be mounted along the way; the poles could be topped with an Osprey nest platform, as seen around Rice Lake.

Dubious

Have you seriously considered the cost of purchasing all of the lakefront properties between Cobourg and Port Hope?

Ben

Simply put this is a moneymaker for the Town. Buy the properties that come up for sale, sever off a 30 metre environmental protection swath and resell the property. It has been done in Oakville with some success.

Durka

Well there you go. I would still like to know where the downvotes for his comment are coming from. We haven’t seen anyone actually question the idea, except dubious wondering about the cost.

Jim Thomas

…starting with the School Board property in question, at the bottom of Durham Street.

Semi old codger

Twenty years ago it was still possible to walk along the west beach from the harbour to Factory Creek The town started to build the board walk and suddenly property owners along this stretch began to claim their “rights” to the beach and to keep citizens off the beach and away from the lake. Between Ontario Street and Factory Creek there are still signs prohibiting people . Signs next to the board walk explain that at the time of European settlement the water line was considerable further north. Traditionally land created by water line changes does not belong to the adjacent property owner, but belongs to the crown. But apparently not in Cobourg. The result of providing and easement for school board lands is to encourage purchasers of the land to keep people and board walks off “their” land, and create conflicts for another generation. A much better solution would be for the council to proclaim that the beach and board walk is public property. The school board is not a good neighbour, despite being theoretically owned by Ontario citizens. The schoolboard prevented citizens from buying Gillbard School to transform it into a community centre, including a theatre. Are we… Read more »

Dubious

Could you explain the details of how the “schoolboard prevented citizens from buying Gillbard School”? This was shortly before I moved to Cobourg. Was it offered for public bids?

Miriam Mutton

hi Dubious,
I supported the citizen lead, town supported group who prepared a proposal to acquire the then recently closed Gilbard School for use as a town owned community facility. It is my recollection that the building would be purposed as a community meeting place, to be used by seniors groups, arts clubs and other organizations. And there was plenty of on-site parking, access by public transit and the school yard would become a park. Being downtown, it was believed that the former school would also be an integral part of downtown revitalization, attracting people to the downtown area. It is also my understanding that the public school board sold to a lower bidder.

Dubious

Interesting! According to the story at https://www.northumberlandnews.com/news-story/3774815-school-board-wants-full-price-for-gillbard/ Mayor Brocanier and the citizen’s group offered $75K for the property with the expectation that provincial and federal taxpayers would pay $150K for a total of $225K and “would need between six to eight months to raise the money”. The property was valued at $500K. I have been unable to determine the final sale price.

manfred s

ahhhhhh.. but think about the revenue stream of annual taxes collected by the town on this property, something that would not have come to be if the town had been successful in its acquisition back then. There may be more to this than an ‘unfortunately’ unsuccessful ‘bid’ led by a politician with various ties here and there…ya know, ya just don’t know (scratching my chin)

Wally Keeler

I recall when I was 12-14, I walked the beach with a couple other guys all the way to Port Hope, Got soakers for sure, but it was a good afternoon spent. Were you the guy we saw swimming out to the lighthouse midway?

Jim Thomas

…same here: we sometimes walked all the way to opposite Peter’s Rock Lighthouse offshore near Port Hope and back when we were kids.
I’ve pointed out before that the west beach and beyond was used so much by so many people over decades – even a century – that we must have established some kind of legal right-of-way access by now. If you allow a path through your property for an extended length of time, it eventually becomes an established route that cannot be then reclaimed.
Any lawyers here that can give us the legal term for that kind of thing?

george taylor

this will drive the Nymbies CRAZY?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIMBY

Durka

Very interesting. This is some prime land if there ever was any! Any developer would be stupid to request removal of the boardwalk, town residents would have their pitchforks out ready to hamper the project at every stage, more so than the typical NIMBYism that will undoubtedly happen anyways. Also the boardwalk is clearly a selling point for whatever gets built.

One thing is for sure, this land is a goldmine, it will be sold swiftly and I have to imagine we see a large condo development proposed.

Merry Mary

Sadly you are right, Durka! NACD! Please, not another condo development! When will the Town recognize the already overwhelmingly high density population in that area?!