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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  Editorials New Look For Port Stanley's Roundabout

by Doug Harvey
New Look For Port Stanley's Roundabout

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 beach hazard.

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 to start.

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 new dunes.

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 dune creation.

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.

Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2017 10:01:20 AM EST

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