It would seem like there is a new look that the Municipality is pursuing for the
Port Stanley beach. It seems that the this look is like a revolving door, and changes
every five years or so. Last time the reasons for the change had labels like Shoreplan
Engineering's Beach Dune Management Plan for Port Stanley's main beach, and the
public was informed of these necessary changes at a public meeting in May 2010.
The Plan had some public opposition to these changes that would drastically change
the Port Stanley Main Beach landscape, but, according to one of those costly studies,
we were told that this was all necessary because our beach was considered a dynamic
It's hard to tell exactly in what direction that the Municipality is taking in
this new round of landscape changes to Port Stanley's Main Beach, but forming an
opinion right now would indicate that were going to get a clean and level look,
free of all that costly natural sand dune grass that took years to grow just right,
and a smooth level ground that could even get park benches for visitors taking in
the view. But with opinions, it's hard to get it right, so to make it easier to
see where this might go, some reflection on how we got what we had is a good place
From a Public Meeting in May 2010
Port Stanley's main beach, under provincial policy statements, was considered a
dynamic beach hazard which could not be developed unless certain standards were
followed. Shoreplan Engineering was also the company that signed off on the development
that now sits adjacent to main beach, with the homes on 5 foot stilts to protect
them from flooding.
Although the study says their recommendations are consistent with the provincial
policy statement, when asked, the engineer could not state what specific sections
of the provincial policy statement justify the establishment of dunes.
In a surprise move early on in the meeting, Mayor Tom Marks said he would go on
the record as not being in favour of building new dunes on the beach.
This was a radically different position than the one he expressed at the Council
meeting of November 25, 2008 when he said: "Just to clarify, the area we're talking
about is our beach, isn't it?" ["Yes," responded Mayor Hofhuis.] " ... and even
if we wanted to put a dune there 300 feet high, we could..." This is also a different
position than the one he stated at the Council meeting of August 24, 2009: "We're
looking at twelve to fifteen thousand dollars here, and if we start this we've spent
the money; and if we four or five months from now get overwhelmed by people challenging
us on it, and if we're going to back off, maybe we shouldn't do it today, otherwise
we're going to have fifteen to twenty thousand dollars worth of egg on our face.
I think we really need to make sure we have the political will to see this through
because it's not going to be popular. It wasn't popular last time."
Residents wanted to know who on Council or staff kept bringing this issue back and
what their real agenda was. More than one person asked if Council could unilaterally
act to build dunes on the beach whether residents liked it or not. Specifically,
they wanted to know how such unilateral action could be justified in terms of the
New Official Plan which calls for public consultation and public input on such decisions.
Deputy Mayor David Marr said Council could act unilaterally but would
not likely do so. Mayor Marks said to do so would be political suicide. Mayor Marks
asked the other members of Council present to declare right then whether they were
in favour of, or opposed to, building new dunes.
Councillor Sally Martyn said she wanted to proceed with the pilot project to see
what happens, to see if it stops the power of the waves from reaching the back shore,
and to try the fence to see if it limits the size of the dunes. Councillor Stephen
Carr said he wanted to protect the municipality's asset but would wait to see what
the rest of Council thought about it. Deputy Mayor David Marr did not think a public
meeting was the right place to discuss it or make such a declaration. Councillor
Russell Matthews noted he lived a long way from the beach and "if the water rolls
on to your front lawn, that's your problem." Although quite ill, he had attended
the meeting because he believed large numbers of the public would also attend it.
Councillor David Rock also thought a public meeting was not the appropriate place
to state a position and that there could be no answer from Council until they went
through their proper processes; however, he didn't see too much positive about building
Deputy Mayor David Marr said they were advised that the municipality might face
liability issues if they did not take flood control measures like dune creation
once they knew about them. When asked to produce a copy of that written legal opinion,
it turned out there was only a verbal opinion from the municipality's solicitor
and no written legal opinion on file. When the liability issue came up, Councillor
Rock noted that when the municipality had at one time considered no longer having
lifeguards at the beach, as a cost saving measure; had they taken away a service
once provided, they could have faced liability had anyone drowned once the lifeguards
were gone. They decided to keep the lifeguards.
It was noted by one resident that if the municipality stopped proactively grading
the entire beach, then not grooming it would passively achieve the same goal of
One issue not raised on the floor at the meeting was the liability
the municipality is quite likely to face for economic loss and property value loss
if they stop proactively grading the entire beach, taking away a service once provided;
or deliberately create new dunes and these result in a decline in tourism and economic
loss for the businesses in the village. That's a liability threat considerably more
likely and more immediate than a potential liability from a potential
Lake Erie flood uprush, as lawsuits of this nature were threatened the last time
the municipality considered creating new dunes and reducing the area groomed.
Even after reading up on what happened in the past, I think the only real opinion
that can be formed at this point in time without any real direction from the Municipality,
is to wait and see, and be happy that the Municipality is still working hard to
get it just right.