Taking a walk around the Port Stanley Harbour in November really shows how far we
have come in the last eight years since the divestiture of the harbour to the Municipality
of Central Elgin on September 8, 2010. It's hard to believe that it's been eight
years, but those visions of how the harbour was, are still easy to remember.
Talk back then from the consultant and Council was that they needed the interest
earned on that "large chunk of money" they're getting in order to make the deal
work. The municipality was not required to spend the money they received for 10
years, and that they wanted to hang onto it for that 10 years to earn as much interest
and compound interest on it as they could.
When the harbour deal was signed in 2010 Mayor Tom Marks said "It may not have been
everything that everyone wanted, but it is what we needed." Though the deal does
not afford such things as building a new Stork Club or a marina, he noted it was
the best deal that could have been achieved. "It's enough to make the harbour lands
an asset for community development without becoming a burden on the taxpayer. That
was our goal from the beginning [and] that has been accomplished." Also Deputy Mayor
Marr at the time said partnerships, private/public partnerships, are key to the
success of the harbour. Central Elgin taxpayers were now in that precarious position
where property taxes, prosperity and their hopes for the future would now rest solely
on the decisions that any Council would make with the harbour lands. What Council
will do with the harbour and how it's managed are what will determine whether it
becomes and asset or a liability.
As with many plans, things evolve and at this time of year when tourists are scarce,
it's easy to vision how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Even
though the west side of the harbour is almost finished, and the berm has been remediated,
and ready for what's next in that Secondary Plan, the last piece of the harbour
puzzle that still needs modifications and repairs is the east side pier. It was
barely mentioned during the last election and will surely cost a more significant
amount of money because of access issues different from the west side.
With a new Council almost ready to assume power, it will be interesting to see what
direction our harbour will take next, keeping that promise of the harbour becoming
an asset, not a liability.