At the next regular Council meeting on 22 November, Council will receive a letter from Ron Smith who is obviously a new resident in Cobourg. His residence is at the new Legion Condo building on Orr street and he makes a proposal that shows he is not aware of the previous heated controversy on the subject. His 7 page letter also includes concerns that Council might spend a large amount of taxpayer money on a development at Brookside, a suggestion to use the Memorial Arena as an Arts and Culture centre and some unhappiness at the thought that the Town must pay for maintenance of the New Amherst Clock. But his final proposal is the zinger – he wants the Trailer Park sold or leased to provide for a Boutique Hotel and waterfront restaurant. Any lost profit would be recovered by taxes on the property.
Ron’s concern was sparked by the budget request for $750K in the 2023 budget for campground improvements as included in the 2022 Capital budget documents. Ron gives details on how the property could be sold and how the proceeds might be managed by a citizen board for the future benefit of the Waterfront only.
When this subject was first raised during the development of the Waterfront master plan, I recall a survey and a Town Public meeting that indicated that the Town seemed to be evenly divided about keeping or losing the Trailer Park. Despite my belief that this result was biased by the heavy involvement of trailer Park users and their friends, the Consultant chose to recommend against selling and instead recommended improvements. Director Dean Hustwick and the “Steering Committee” (with Council spokesman Brian Darling) agreed with them. Despite considerable noise from citizens (see links below – especially report on Marathon Council meeting), Council decided to go with the report. And until now, this issue has been dormant waiting for a new taxpayer to wonder why. Ron makes the case eloquently so I am quoting it here [slightly edited]:
Ron Smith on the Trailer Park
I was shocked to read that the sum of $750,000 had been recommended for upgrades to the trailer park / campground located at the southeast terminus of Division Street for the consideration of Council, for the 2023 budget.
I feel that this extremely important and strategically located town owned property could offer the citizens of Cobourg a higher valued financial and citizen usage return by the opening of a waterfront boutique hotel and restaurant. The financial upside would come from either a long-term lease (50-75-100 year) arrangement or through the sale of the property to a private boutique hotelier.
I would suggest that all monies realized through the lease or sale process should be placed in a specifically created Cobourg Waterfront Community Endowment Fund via a very specifically worded by-law, which would be managed and strictly controlled by an appointed and varied board comprised of Cobourg only, citizens-at-Iarge in perpetuity. [Details of management of Fund omitted.]
My sense is that there would be a spirited amount of commercial interest in the lease and/or purchase of the current trailer park property despite the fact that any lease / sale agreement would explicitly restrict development on the property, to the construction of a boutique hotel and accompanying waterfront restaurant only.
I envision that the vast majority of members of the Cobourg Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) and Northumberland Central Chamber of Commerce would welcome what I would describe as being an extremely significant shopper / pedestrian driven anchor destination for citizens and visitors alike. It would be another key feature for people to be drawn to the downtown. Our overnight visitors would continue to experience the entire waterfront and provide extra year-round foot traffic throughout the entire downtown business core.
I would estimate that a potential boutique hotel and waterfront restaurant would create in the neighbourhood of fifty (50) to seventy-five (75) fulltime equivalent opportunities for citizen employment, on a year-round basis. I recognize that the current trailer park does provide a positive financial return to the town during the trailer park’s five-month season, but I feel confident in suggesting that the annual property tax assessment received from the aforementioned commercial development of the property would recover any of the lost trailer park rental income for the town.
I will respectfully close by suggesting that the commercial development of the current trailer park with a boutique hotel and waterfront restaurant would provide a multitude of benefits for the citizens of Cobourg as opposed to providing a trailer park for a limited number of visitors, on a five-month basis, that creates minimal employment and provides limited opportunities for Cobourg citizens.
In Mayor Henderson’s 22nd of October 2021 column in the Northumberland News he described the many housing developments that are currently underway throughout the west side of town and asked us to stay tuned for a follow-up article on the growth and development within the central core of Cobourg. I believe that my proposed waterfront boutique hotel and restaurant proposal would complement the positive background work performed by the town’s Planning and Development Employees and from the current and previous elected officials.
When the study was released, the issue of what to do with the Trailer Park was sidelined by concerns about expansion of boat slips into the West Harbour and buying a Travel Lift. These concerns seem to have finally been put to bed. But now, given the heavy investment planned for the Waterfront and how it makes the Waterfront more attractive to visitors and given the expected Capital cost in Campground “improvements”, perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea. Ron and at least some other taxpayers in Town would no doubt agree.
- Letter to Council by Ron Smith – complete and unedited
- Proposed 2022 Capital Budget – on Town’s web site
Earlier Posts on Cobourg News Blog
- Waterfront Study – First Look at Draft Report – 26 October 2017
- First Look at Waterfront Study Report – 17 May 2018
- Strong Interest in Release of Waterfront Study – 3 June 2018
- Marathon Council Meeting Dominated by Waterfront Study – 5 June 2018 – includes links to presentations from multiple citizens with concerns.
- Waterfront Study Finally Accepted by Council – 5 July 2018
- Earlier reports on surveys and Town meetings were before September 2017 and not reported on Cobourg News Blog – see reports by other sites below
Downloads – hosted by Cobourg News Blog
- Full Final Waterfront Study Report – without Appendices (5.6MB) – May 2018
- Appendices to report (28MB) – May 2018
- Consultant’s Presentation of final Waterfront Study report (2.8MB) – 4 June 2018
- Presentations to Council – 3 July 2018 – Comments on Waterfront Study by Citizens
- Dean Hustwick memo – Detailed Response to objections by citizens – includes background information – 3 July 2018
- Consultant’s presentation of detailed response to objections – 3 July 2018
Earlier Reports on Other Sites
- Cobourg campground debate is a distraction – 26 January 2016 – Comment by Rob Washburn on Northumberland News
- Victoria Park campground could be future site of waterfront inn and spa in Cobourg – Northumberland News – 7 August 2015