Burlington Council poised to sell public waterfront land

Council will decide Tues. Oct. 15 whether to sell a parcel of public waterfront land between Market St. and St. Paul St., running behind three private homes (see map). The public lands are owned in part by the Ministry of Natural Resources (along the shoreline) and the city. The homeowners who back onto this land wish to purchase the land to extend their private properties to the shoreline.

Council voted to retain “windows” at Market/St Paul but sell “parkette” between them.

The city’s Community Services Committee (which includes all members of City Council) voted 6-1 to sell the property to the three homeowners, and only retain the street ends at Market St. and St. Paul St. as “Windows to the Lake” for public use.  Developing these windows (landscaping/bench/garbage can/signage) will cost $80,000. This recommendation heads to council for final approval.

Let council know what you think. As always, feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.

My Take:  I support retaining the land in public hands for the reasons outlined below.

Why Sell?

Some of the reasons given to sell the land between the road ends include concerns over the cost and whether there is a need for more waterfront park, when Port Nelson is a few doors down; vandalism or drunken behavior because the path isn’t visible from the street; legal issues, including what to do about the seawall which was built and paid for in 1990 by homeowners with city permission (the city paid for the portion of seawall at the street ends).

Why retain?

View of lake from public path between Market & St. Paul

The concerns that have been raised can be resolved: Vandalism/drunkenness sometimes occurs in other parks and we take steps to address it rather than closing parks; there is $9.8m in a fund for park development, more than enough to build the parkette and windows to the lake (total $182,000 plus $7500 annually); and the legal issues in my view are overstated and can be resolved. In a ruling dating back to 1993 (whose decision is public), the judge affirmed that the purchasers of one of the homes built the seawall on public (MNR) property at their risk and are not owed compensation from the seller of the home or city. If any compensation is owed, the judge said, it would be from the MNR. The current homeowners told committee last week they would consider taking legal action against the city if the city chose not to sell the land to them, but it is unclear what grounds they would have.

Waterfront Vision:

Keeping these waterfront lands in public hands honours our City and Regional Official Plans, which encourage steps to build a continuous waterfront, trail along (or near) the shoreline. If we lose these lands it will be hard to get them back, at least not without granting significant height/density through redevelopment in exchange for public shoreline access.

It doesn’t make sense to me to let go of public lands on the shoreline at a time when the city/region are contemplating spending up to $10million to buy and demolish private homes in the Beachway area – which are not on the shoreline.

Have your say:

Should council keep this parcel? Sell it? Let council know what you think!

Email councilors or register as a delegation to speak at City Council by calling 905-335-7600 x7805, or registering online at
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Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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