Water Park Decision to be made

At the last Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) meeting on January 28, it was apparent that some councillors want to withdraw approval for the Water Park on Cobourg’s East Beach.  A motion was made by Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and then passed by Council that asked for a staff report on financial implications, safety concerns and legal impacts.  At the next C.O.W. meeting on February 19, Director of Community Services Dean Hustwick will provide his 40 page report (plus appendices) which I will try to summarize – although it’s still long!  Dean’s report refers to the various Master plans, discusses public support, reviews the consequences of changing the previous Council’s decision, provides the sequence of events leading to the decision, discusses the impact of the Water Park on the community, says that the Town does have confidence in the contractor, says that the proposed rates are affordable, reviews the financial implications to the Town, reviews the risks and provides three options.

Typical Water Park
Typical Water Park

Appendices to his report include copies of (1) the RFP, (2) the response by the Contractor (ATL), (3) the cancellation letter from ATL, (4) Aquatic Safety Audit and (5) a legal opinion about cancelling the agreement.  You can access all documents on the Town portal here.

Summary of Staff Report

Dean’s report is very comprehensive so it is likely that the summary below will miss some of his points and perhaps the rationale will be incomplete.

Town master plans that involve the Beach

  • 2015-2018 Strategic plan
  • Parks Master Plan (2013) – encourages “active beach use”
  • Recreation Strategy and Implementation plan (Dec 2016)
  • Waterfront Plan (2018) – recommends expanding revenue generation opportunities to help pay for beach and harbour costs.  Initiative 5.14 specifically recommended a floating playground.

Public Engagement/Support

  • 80% agreed that Tourism is important to Cobourg’s economy
  • 46% of businesses agreed that they either depend on or benefit from the trade from tourists/visitors
  • 76% of residents agreed that tourists should contribute a larger share of improvements costs through enhanced Revenue Generating Opportunities
  • 56% of residents and 72% of businesses agreed that the Town should further develop waterfront-based recreation activities as a source of revenue generation
  • A survey of 500 visitors in 2018 showed that 51% come for the beach, 90% visited the beach, 70% are under 50 (that is, mostly families), 49% shopped and 60% visited a local food establishment.

Sequence of Events

  • November 20, 2017 Town staff raised the prospect of pursuing a floating playground for Cobourg Beach through an RFP for the summer of 2018. There were no concerns raised, but the YMCA noted that lifeguard services would need to be coordinated between the YMCA and the floating playground operators.
  • January 17, 2018 – Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee approve the idea
  • January 29, 2018 – Committee of the Whole approve the idea
  • February 7, 2018 – RFP issued. During the RFP period, the two organizations that ultimately submitted proposals to the Town of Cobourg contacted the YMCA regarding the possibility of contracting lifeguard services from the YMCA. Both companies informed the Town of Cobourg that those discussions were very positive.
  • February 22, 2018 – RFP results posted on the Town’s website
  • April 2, 2018 – Committee of the Whole approved the results of the RFP and the awarding of the project to ATL Distributing.  Councillor Seguin moved that Staff negotiate a contract with ATL Distributing  and suggested terms.
  • April 9, 2018 – Council gave final approval of the project and the awarding of the contract to ATL Distributing. [Note that this vote was close –  Deborah McCarthy, Suzanne Séguin and John Henderson were against.  Ed]
  • April 9 to May 16, 2018 – ATL and YMCA could not agree in time for the 2018 season so ATL was advised that it would need to hire its own lifeguards for the floating playground – five weeks before it was scheduled to open.
  • July 10, 2018 – ATL informed the Town that although it had hired a manager and five lifeguards, it had exhausted all avenues to hire the additional lifeguards required to operate the floating playground. It was mutually agreed that the project would be postponed until 2019.
  • January 9, 2019 – Deputy Mayor Seguin gave Notice of Motion that since the agreement had not been signed, the agreement with ATL should be reviewed with a view to possibly terminating it.
  • January 14, 2019 – Council approved the Notice of motion
  • January 28, 2019 – Committee of the Whole approved the Motion with a report due back on February 19.  This meant that Staff had to report on legal and financial risks and implications if the project were to be cancelled by Council, all of ATL’s expenses to date, safety considerations, potential impact of the event on the beach, garbage and parking and commentary on the feasibility of Lake Ontario as a location for a floating playground. [There’s a report on this C.O.W. meeting here  Ed.]

Impact on Community

  • It would attract rather than discourage local use and tourism
  • It would promote active living
  • It would enhance utilization of the waterfront
  • No concerns of significance were raised by the YMCA, Cobourg Police Service, Cobourg Fire Department, Parks Department, insurer, lawyer and the Emergency Planner.

To determine the community’s and the waterfront’s capacity to absorb new events and activities, one needs to consider the type and number of events already taking place in the community during the summer months.  Cobourg already has many large school events/tournaments on the beach as well as the Country Wild Music Festival, the Busker Festival, Highland Games, the DBIA’s Food and Music Festival, the Lakeside Antique Car Show, Waterfront Festival/Canada Day, Sandcastle Festival/Sidewalk Sale and Ribfest.

Even with approximately 30,000 people or more for the Sand Castle Festival/Sidewalk Sale on the peak day and approximately 20,000 – 25,000 for Waterfront/Canada Day there was still a lot of free space on the beach.

Dean’s report includes photos showing the beach with a lot of remaining capacity on many days in the summer.

ATL assumes in its business case an average of 250 users per day (200 on the large waterpark and 50 on the children’s waterpark) for an estimated 64 operational days (bad weather days excluded). The large waterpark will have an estimated maximum number of users at any given time of 100 and the small waterpark a maximum of 30. Even if the daily numbers were increased significantly, the floating playground business is unlikely to strain the community’s infrastructure or parking any more than small special events and certainly much less than large events. Downtown and waterfront parking are ongoing and long-term concerns that need to be addressed.  ATL has agreed to maintain the portion of the beach in which it is operating and ensure it is clean.

Appropriateness of a Floating Playground at Cobourg Beach
Negative impact will be minimal because the size of the two waterparks will be small in relation to the size of the beach and the overall waterfront.

Cobourg Beach is approximately 490 meters long and as much as 100 meters deep. The proposed floating playground will be located at the eastern end of the beach near Lifeguard Station 4 and will represent only 12% of its length. This means that 88% of the beachfront will be outside of the floating playground zone, ensuring that Lake views will be protected from the vast majority of the beach and Victoria Park.

Does the Town have confidence in the ability of the contractor to execute its agreement in a safe manner?
Short answer – Yes.

Location on Open Water (Lake Ontario)
Is Lake Ontario an appropriate body of water for a floating playground because of its size and its wind, waves and storms?  Obviously the two bidders to the RFP believed it’s financially viable.  Similar parks in international locations on oceans and large lakes (e.g. Lake Michigan) etc have proved it can be done safely.

Affordability to users

Pricing is an operational and business issue for ATL, not for the Town. But prices ($15 to $35) are comparable to other family oriented activities such as Ripley’s Aquarium (youth $25) – Toronto, Canada’s Wonderland– Vaughan ($56), Calypso Waterpark – near Ottawa ($40), Green Canoe Outfitters – Cobourg ($36 to $90 – canoe and kayak rental), Brimacombe – Orono (child $43), the Roc – Georgina ($25), Cobourg Highland Games – Cobourg ($20)

Financial Implications

Would there be any consequences for the Town if it were to change the previous Council’s decision?

  • Cobourg would miss out on an opportunity to attract more tourists and get some revenue from them.
  • There will be no cost to the Town but instead a share in revenue – 10% of all revenue from the project goes to the Town.  
  • See also risks and options below.

Risks

Liability Risk
The Town’s Insurance company saw no problem although with all insurance claims, a claim could potentially impact future premiums.   ATL says that all patrons would sign a waiver and they will have a $10M insurance policy.

Legal Risk
See letter at this link which states that the Town has the ability to terminate its agreement with ATL. However, it cautions that case law and considerations of both good faith and procedural fairness require that the Town provide ATL with another opportunity to meet the terms outlined in the RFP.

See Options below for more on this.

Options

  • Allow ATL/Summer Water Sports to operate the floating playground for two years (with an option to renew for up to an additional three years if mutually agreed to).  Based on ATL estimates, this would provide revenue to the Town of approximately $56,000 over two years.
  • Terminate the agreement with ATL/Summer Water Sports and negotiate a financial compensation package to cover some or all of ATL’s expenses ($40K) and potentially also lost profits ($43K) and other gains. If the Town and ATL were to engage lawyers to help negotiate this settlement, additional costs would need to be allocated. See Legal advice letter here.
  • Terminate the agreement with ATL and prepare for potential litigation. If ATL and/or Summer Water Sports pursue litigation and end up in court, legal expenses for the Town alone could range between $30,000 and $60,000. If the Town loses the litigation, it could potentially face costs in the realm of those outlined in Option 2 plus potentially legal costs for the plaintiff.

It seems that not having signed (executed) an agreement does not let Cobourg off the hook. It is expected that on Tuesday, Council will vote on this subject and then it will go to the regular Council meeting on February 25 for ratification.

Links

Dean’s Report

Previous Cobourg News Blog reports on the Water Park

Print Article: 

 

Click to Notify me of
Bart

“Similar parks in international locations on oceans and large lakes (e.g. Lake Michigan) etc have proved it can be done safely.”

Except the Michigan park was destroyed in a storm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cle_uhRSUF8

Wally Keeler

How many deaths and life-altering injuries? And what structures {piers, yachts, boathouses, etc} did it damage or outright destroy? And how much did it cost to repair the sandy beach after being greatly gouged out by tacky debris?

Storms wreck havoc on everything. Cars spin out and crash on wet pavement, but we don’t ban cars. Storms can blow down trees onto homes and highways and threaten life, but we don’t forbid trees.

What is the probability that a business would let people bounce around during a storm? Exceedingly remote. On Cobourg beach it is easy to see a storm coming several minutes away, so there would be time to shoo people off the waterpark.

The storm damage was very serious for the owner of the business, but not for the community.

The Michigan Lake event:
Deaths == ZERO
Injuries == ZERO
Structural damage == ZERO
Sand damage == ZERO
How is this a safety issue??

It should be noted that that waterpark returned the following year, 2018, 25% larger than the previous year, and is a popular attraction earning lots of money.

Bart

The one example they gave as a successful Great Lakes park was ripped out by a storm that took it out for the entire season. These parks can’t operate in wind and wave conditions that are fairly routine here. Even in a best case weather scenario, the town is giving up a lot of prime space for a remarkably small amount of money. Besides all that, they’re ugly. If it’s such a great idea, then it should be able to stand up to public scrutiny. That definitely did not happen before it was voted in last year.

Wally Keeler

The “one example” is the only example. The only example caused no damage to anything, nor did it injure anyone, nor did it cost the community.

The entire season” is inaccurate; it was washed out for the later part of the installation, NOT the entire season.

The park is”giving up a lot of space“. No it is NOT. It takes up only 12% of the view, leaving a whopping 88% to see the view with beach umbrellas, beach ‘tents’, beach toys, most of them of primary colours just like the waterpark. That being the case, it must be regarded as ugly. Some attitudes are ugly.

Wally Keeler

After the nothing burger of a storm that Bart has presented, the damage was done near the END OF THE SEASON. Furthermore the water park was up and running for 2018 with a 25% increase in size. According to WHOA ZONE they had a successful 2018 season and are preparing for another successful season. In 2018 the waterpark was closed a handful of times because of weather, and no damage was done to the waterpark since they learned from the previous year. Of course the waterpark made enough money to continue its business so that it could make more money. https://whoazonewhihala.com/

Bart contends that the waterpark was taken out for the “entire season.” Does bart have a link that proves it was taken out for the “entire season?” Does Frenchy care about Bart’s gross exaggerations to bolster his argument? Of course not — he prefers to spread an untruth, smearing me by falsely claiming that I said, “newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count,”

Bart

Let’s stay focused on what’s important. I don’t really care if Whoa Zone had a successful season. What I care about is the town making successful deals that make sense and don’t alienate local citizens or businesses unfairly. Here are 2 reasons why I think this deal should be put up for some public debate: 1) In order for the town to reach their targeted goal of 28K per season, the water park would have to average about $3000 per day over 90 days. Speaking from experience, that is extremely ambitious. We have been renting personal watercraft at the East end of the beach for 4 seasons now. It’s not at all lucrative down there. There are days they are going to do $0 in sales due to a variety of uncontrollable factors. Sure there can be some busy days, but it also doesn’t take much for an onshore wind to make it rough enough to shut you down on an important weekend (Check this Sundays forecast 5+ meter waves and 105km/hr gusts as an example… Surf’s up!) We operate our kiosk to promote paddling (which in turn helps us sell the equipment) but we sure as hell don’t make… Read more »

manfred s

just an observation on your numbers Bart, but I think the Town’s take is estimated at $28,000 per year for 2 years, not just 10% of that 28,000. Regardless, that’s pretty cheap rental rate for a slice of public property of that size and location, because in fact that’s what this comes down to in the end.

Bart

If I understand correctly, I’m pretty sure we are saying the same thing. 28K per year, was the estimated 10% the town would receive each year. In a 90day season the park would have to average approximately $3,000 per day each season for that goal to be met.

manfred s

my comment was addressing your statement “get paid it’s 10% cut of $28,000.” which translates to $2,800. Based on what you’re saying now, you actually meant ‘get paid it’s 10% cut,
or $28,000’. “of” vs ‘or’. I get you now, sorry for the pickiness, Bart.

Bart

Come on Manfred, even a former trench dweller can occasionally get the numbers right. Cheers

Wally Keeler

It is not condescending to correct your exaggeration that the park was ripped out for the entire season. It wasn’t. You assert 10% of 28,000; wrong again.

Insofar as the Breakers is concerned, they could put the waterpark in their advertising and exploit the free presence of the waterpark for family guests and their children.

Ken Strauss

…exploit the free presence of the waterpark for family guests and their children

Free? I thought that it was to be a pay amusement park.

manfred s

Ken, Wally said “free presence”, not free use. There’s a difference.

Ken Strauss

Correct. One might encourage visitors to come to the motel and the other is a significant detriment.

Bart

No, I said $28,000 IS the 10% cut each year. Read it again, and go read all of the info again. Those are the numbers they gave.

Frenchy

You have a link to back up the claim of “earning lots of money”?

Wally Keeler

Do you have a link to back up your slander? “Wally says says newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count,”

Frenchy

So then, the answer is no?
You don’t know if that park is making “lots of money” or not but went ahead and said it anyways to bolster your argument.

Wally Keeler

So then your answer is no?
You don’t have any link to support your gratuitouslt fabricated smear “Wally says says newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count“. Typical stunt for a pseudonym to make up fake news about another individual; such dignified behaviour to bolster an argument with someone else by smearing a third party to bolster your pathetic argument.

You stepped way out of line on this one Frenchy. You donlt even have the integrity to retract your smear, to retract an untruth against your fellow Cobourger. That’s how to hide your belonging to community by spreading smears about individuals. And of course, you hide behind the burka of a pseudonym..

Hooraay !

A waterpark on Cobourg beach. What a great idea for families.
Surely, the new Council wont botch this. Our new Mayor should step up to show
leadership. The town is capable in providing solutions to the negative comments.

Jim Thomas

Not so, alas. Our new Mayor has succumbed to his more craven inclinations, it seems.

Ken Strauss

That depends on your perspective. From mine Council made the right decision.

Albert

Enforcement, safety and security issues!
You are a paid policeman.
Go and do your job!

Wally Keeler

The natural west beach is a five minute walk away from Victoria Park. The view (100%) is unobstructed except for occasional sailboats or yachts or long lakers balanced on the horizon. It’s a natural beach. It’s like that 24/7/365. Victoria Park beach from the harbour edge east to the west side of the sensory garden will have an unobstructed view of the lakefront, unobstructed 88% of the beach front. It will be there on its 12% turf, full of family fun, frolic and primary colours for a whopping 64 days out of 365, almost 1/7th of a year. Unbearable. So here we are, with a business that appeals to families, occupying only 12% of the beach view for 1/7th of a year that could bring in $$$$ to assist the Town to pay for the east pier restoration and facing rejection because of stupid fuddyduddyism. I recall that there were naysayers to the installation of a trampoline business on the beach near The Pav during the late 60s. The business remained for a few years. There were naysayers to the installation to the miniature golf course business on the central part of the beach where the trampolines had been. It… Read more »

Jim Thomas

Unfortunately, the west beach will be largely inhospitable to any kind of activity so long as there is no food, water or washroom facilities nearby, to say nothing of parking.

Wally Keeler

That is as it should be.

Deborah OConnor

So some Councillors want to reverse the last Council’s decision to go ahead with the Waterpark. Kids call that a do-over. Kind of like Superman flying round the earth really fast so Lois Lane comes back to life.

Sorry folks, but real life ain’t like that. Decisions have consequences, as this Council is about to find out. Let’s hope they learn from it and don’t embarrass themselves this way again.

Walter L. Luedtke

HMMMMM! Interesting!
Public input into Council decision making is all well and good, but only if the results agree with the biases of our anonymous posters and some Councillors.
The cannabis opt-in survey found 78.5% in favour, but three Councillors voted against it.
Large majorities of Cobourg citizens feel that tourism in important to Cobourg’s economy and a big majority of businesses think that waterfront based recreational activities should be developed.
But all this public input business can be overdone.
I have a feeling that Deputy Mayor Seguin, an advocate for ‘public engagement’, will vote against the Waterpark, just as she did against the cannabis sales.

Rationale

The report appears to provide a spin in favour of the water park, and ends with a suggestion of legal issues if the Town does not go along with. (As the promoter did not honour its’ commitment, there is a legal basis to void the contract.)

The report should be more balanced, weighing both pros and cons. Per my earlier posting the only group to benefit will be the promoter. Annual revenue (not guaranteed) to the Town is estimated at $26,000 on a Town annual revenue budget ~ $48,000,000 and is not material. Their appears to be strong opposition, and in my view this type of an attraction only detracts from the appeal of Cobourg and from the successful events each year during the summer months. I too urge Counsellors, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor to reject this proposal.

manfred s

I’m not that surprised that the ‘staff report’ appears to show some bias, after all, a fair bit of staff time has been spent on the project and will appear to have been wasted if it is rejected now. A career black eye for those who brought it forward and not much of a confidence builder in favour of the original proposer. I’d say there’s too much skin in the game for someone to back off now.

Pamela Jackson

As a former Councillor I urge you to vote thumbs down on this
Waterpark white elephant, there will be no benefit to the town,
and you could be left with a huge debt, the image of a tacky
waterfront town and angry residents who never wanted this
in the first place.

Ben

As somebody who doesn’t live in Cobourg any more why should we listen to you?

Frenchy

We pay for, and listen to outside consultants who don’t live here, don’t we? Why not an exCobourger and Councillor? They just might have a little insight into our town.
Wally says says newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count, you say exCobourgers don’t count. Define this small group who does count.

Wally Keeler

Wally says says newcomers and non-native Cobourgers don’t count,”

I never said any such thing. Think nuance, and truthful accuracy.

Wally Keeler

There will be a monetary benefit to the Town. Ms Jackson indulges in speculative fiction when she asserts the town “could be left with a huge debt

Ms Jackson’s concern that Cobourg would have an “image of a tacky waterfront town” speaks to the inner snobs of the hoity toity, who demonstrate more concern with small superficial appearances rather than provide an opportunity for Cobourg’s families to have fun and frolic and provide revenue.

Small Town Lover

It would be nice if the tax payers could vote yay or nay on this because it WILL make an impact on this town . It will be one big headache from the get go. I think this “water park” would be more suitable in a city like Burlington not a town.

cornbread

What kind of a contract does our town sign when the provider can’t take care of his end of the deal in 2018, and then the town can’t drop the deal in 2019 unless we pay the guy off. One sided to say the least…what bright guys are working for our town??? Shades of the Town Lighting Company fiasco…

Old Sailor

Would the councillors supporting this Water Park please advise where an extra 250 cars a day are supposed to park? The lots by the waterfront are already rammed in the summer.

The Waterfront Festival eliminates the largest waterfront parking lot we have for three weeks around the July 1st weekend. One week for set up, one week for the event and one week for takedown. Where do the extra 250 cars park?

Again what is the net benefit to the Cobourg resident taxpayers? Where is the guaranteed dollar return to the town for the risks and disruption we will endure? Councillors who support this should have “Free Parking” signs on their driveways and front lawn all summer long.

We should be looking at the impact on resident taxpayers of a Water Park. The impact on Cobourg residents is strangely absent form the “Community Impact” list above. I wonder why?

Miriam Mutton

An observation, the Canada Day fireworks display is well attended and vehicles are parked to fill streets between the waterfront to locations north of University Avenue. This event shows the capacity for parking in downtown Cobourg. A good point, though, about community impact on residents. In general, programming of Victoria Park and waterfront areas needs improved assessment criteria and follow-up reporting for the types of events and features. For example, if Council feels it is a top priority to treat Victoria Park as a revenue generating fairground, then, to be fair to everyone Council needs to ensure those programs/events also mitigate the cost of damage repair, including death of the mature shade trees, as well as impact on accessibility and parking as a refund to the tax bills of local residents for whom Victoria Park is their officially designated neighbourhood parkland. That includes much of old town residential areas and heritage districts. I live about a 10-12 minute walk away and Victoria Park is also my ‘neighbourhood’ park as well as being a community wide parkland destination. I like the vibrancy of a waterfront where people are enjoying themselves but I wonder about the benefits to the community when I… Read more »

John Hill

The staff memorandum underplayed the issue of liability should the Town contract with ATL for a waterpark attraction at the Cobourg beach. The report also distorts the actual message delivered by the town solicitor that Cobourg actually has little to fear should it decide to withdraw from proceeding with the RFP presented by ATL Distributing. The staff memo says that entering into a 2 year renewable deal commencing this summer is the least costly decision since other options might lead to litigation. Again, the town solicitor is of the view this would be unlikely or that such a suit could not be successfully completed. One area the Town solicitor deals with is on the issue of whether this was in breach of the Town’s responsibility to negotiate in good faith. In making the case, the Town solicitor cites two cases, one which is a tribunal decision not binding on an Ontario court and the second was a Supreme Court of Canada case that would apply if the Town should decide to cancel with ATL and award the contract to another bidder which is not the case. Unfortunately, the Town solicitor failed to comment on the leading case on municipal civil… Read more »

Bob Temple

Totally agree

Nancy

Well said John Hill.