25 year, $51 million Beach Master Plan & Acquisition Strategy Released

Burlington's Beachway Park Halton Region Waterfront Plan
Beach residents do not impede access to water.

The updated Master Plan for Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park, which includes Spencer Smith Park in Ward 2 and Beachway Park in Ward 1, will take 25 years and an estimated $51 million to implement, according to a consultants report and accompanying staff recommendations.

The Master Plan was reviewed by Halton Region’s Planning & Public Works Committee Wed. May 20 and goes to full Regional Council for a final vote Wed. May 27, 9:30am. All members of Burlington City Council sit on the 21-member Regional Council.

The plan is based on removing the historic neighbourhood in this area where 27 privately-owned homes remain. Regional council voted 16-5 in 2013 to acquire and remove the homes on a “willing buyer-willing seller” basis. (I support retaining the neighbourhood here, and voted against further acquisition of homes).

In place of the neighbourhood, a storm water management pond with pavilion, food truck areas, children’s play area, an artisan/market building with washrooms and other amenities will be installed. Lakeshore Road will be moved closer to the Skyway Bridge; 28 onstreet parking spaces will be added, and existing parking areas will be reduced to flexible landscaped areas that can be used for a variety of other activities. A shuttle from downtown parking areas will be offered in peak times.

The park is divided into six unique areas, with different features, including Spencer Smith Park, The Living Shoreline, The Strand, The Wind Beach, The Commons, and the Skyway & Federal Pier. The result, states the staff report, is a “legacy” project creating a “world-class waterfront destination” that offers four seasons of an urban waterfront experience.

Read the plan and staff report here:

LPS54-15 – Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park – 2015 Master Plan Item 1
(Refer to Attachments #1, #2, #3 and #4 Under Separate Cover)

LPS59-15 – Burlington Beach Acquisition Implementation/Strategy (T5800D) Item 2

The plan relies on the willingness of residents to sell their homes for demolition; three properties have recently sold to the region (read these stories here:) But many residents have said they intend to stay.

As such, the Master Plan identifies the need to develop a Phasing Plan, as well as a funding strategy, to implement the Master Plan. Phase 1 encompasses land already in public ownership, on the lake side of the multi-use trail. Phase 2 includes properties purchased by the region, and contemplates removal of the homes and any required site clean-up. Phase 3 is subject to full acquisition of the remaining properties.

The consultants have also recommended a 10-year review of the plan to ensure the vision is being achieved and identify where minor refinements might be required. This is the third Master Plan for the beach, with earlier plans in 1987 and 1994. The new Plan also recommends the development of an Illustrated Master Plan and an Environmental Management and Restoration Plan, alongside the Implementation Strategy with cost projections and budget.

Preliminary cost estimates of the plan are $51.5 million total, including $23.5 million for the park development; $12 million to relocate hydro towers; and $16 million to acquire the private homes. The funding would come from the Tax Capital Reserve and the Green Fund, which would both need to be replenished over time, with tax increases of $217,000 to $340,000 annually for the next 25 years.

The staff report on the Master Plan recommends that council direct staff to address the relocation of Hydro Towers located on the beach as part of Phase 1, and bring a detailed financial plan to the 2016 budget and forecast.

Acquisition Strategy:

Regional staff have also developed an acquisition strategy for council’s approval which includes incentives as well as steps to protect market value, for example using appraisals of similar homes in other neighbourhoods and general property increases as benchmarks for market comparators.

Among the incentives outlined are:

  • leaseback opportunities and extended close periods
  • life estates (the region only acquires the home upon the death of the owner)
  • relocation services and moving costs
  • environmental remediations costs
  • payment options
  • right of first refusal on a private sale, with a $5000-$10000 premium above the private sale offer
  • allowance of removal of fixtures/chattels
  • option to buy Halton surplus lands for relocation purposes
  • legal/professional costs
  • appraisal costs

These incentives are estimated to cost $1.35 million; an additional $2.7 million would be required for remediation costs, and a final $11.6 million for property acquisition (adjusted 8% per year for market value increase over the projected costs in 2012).

These items together bring to total acquisition cost to $16 million.

My Take:

I support the upgrades and funding to the park on land already in public ownership. I do not support removing a neighbourhood to expand a park, particularly since this will not provide any additional shoreline access. The sand beach and shoreline are already publicly accessible. The residential enclave has coexisted in harmony with this public beach for over 100 years, and can continue to do so. It is particularly discouraging to contemplate displacing our own Burlington residents to instead cater to “visitors from the city, Region and beyond.” We have a world-class legacy  urban waterfront that is fully publicly accessible right now – with the residents remaining.

I appreciate the efforts staff have made to provide incentives to residents if they decide to sell. The incentives were developed in consultation with residents according to their needs. However, these incentives can never fully  compensate residents for targetting their neighbourhood and community for removal, putting these residents under significant stress, not to mention reducing the pool of “willing buyers” – many wouldn’t want the headache nor the financial uncertainty these folks have endured.

In at least one case, residents who sold to the Region are moving a short walk away to the beach on the Hamilton side – where the residential community is encouraged, thriving and coexists with the public beach. I’m sorry we lost you in our community.

Your Take:

What are your thoughts on the proposed new plans – and costs – for the beach? Leave a comment below.

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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  1. Keep the private homes there and let them change ownership in due time. Create more parking, Add two – three washroom facilities. Make the beach area an inviting place to come to – and have a family picnic, if so desired. Keep it zero-cost to use. The last thing that is required is development and commercialization.

  2. I tend to agree with your take, Marianne – and also don’t understand why the homes cannot continue to be there. They are part of the beachfront charm of that area and I don’t see what is gained by removing them. It is good to know that the waterfront area will continue to be open to our residents; especially with the continuing development of the downtown area.

  3. Hey Marianne, a large beach area, will perhaps require supervision, especially if there are no eyes watching, but a group of residences, should provide, particularly overnight watchers, and complainers, eh?

  4. The continuing lament with all the spending is the highly uncertain outcome.

    “No money to spare” … Over a period of many years.

    I hope someone here will remind me. Did we ever get the wind turbine on the pier to work? Why do I ask? It would have saved money.

    What’s that smell? No, it’s not torpedoes. Could it be … a consortium … willing to wait while playing the push / pull game?

    Is anyone taking water samples? “The situation is like having plutonium in your backyard. It doesn’t matter who put it there — you can’t ignore it. It is toxic and toxins do not discriminate.” — John Birch, President, LaSalle Park Marina Association (April 2010)

    I guess we won’t really know the “status” until the PM debates himself from a strategically secure location. Only HE is permitted to ask questions.

    Only HE will provide answers.

  5. I think that this is a fabulous idea! I just read today that the hydro towers will be removed away from the beach. Hurray! I agree that this must be done right to ensure that the pollution gets cleaned up and an environmentally friendly approach to the development is a must. As the homes are not really impeding the overall plan, the homes in the area should be left there, with the home owners eventually selling to the developers on their own terms and timelines. They should get fair market value. I think that parking plans could be improved by reducing parking sprawl through the creation of mid rise parking lots, ensuring the parking buildings are esthetically appealing. This project likely will cost a lot more than the $51 million that is projected. I think funding could be achieved through a win-win situation by raising part of the funds as a private syndicated mortgage investment. This could help defray the public costs, and also give private investors an opportunity for a decent rate of return and a chance to be part of the project.

  6. I am so opposed to this plan. Why change the natural look of the area as it is ? Think of all the habitats that would be altered for animals & birds that live in the area. Who really wants a so called “world class waterfront “anyway? Why do we always have to have high & mighty plans ? City council should think what the majority of Burlington’s residents are really in need of, not fancy projects. Affordable housing etc. Also, what’s wrong with leaving those homes that are on the beach area alone. They add character to the area. I worry about this plan.

  7. I am absolutely in favor of this project. Damn the torpedoes and build this thing before the naysayers turn it to dust. I am sick and tired of the negative individuals with no vision having the ear of council. Let’s be a grown up city and do something bold and exciting. Go for it!

  8. I don’t believe parks, trails, bike paths or beaches should come before Burlington’s infrastructure is updated and sewage floods are fully and completely stopped. With basements full of raw sewage in homes in May, June, July and August 2015 I believe Burlington should put Health issues first above all else.
    Bev Kingdon Ward 5

  9. “world-class waterfront destination” and “world-class legacy”. Does anyone ever travel? What a joke. Toronto thinks it is world class? It’s not even close. I recently returned from what is definitely a third world country, Panama. The architecture in Panama City would blow you away. The waterfront walkway, the Cinta Costera, is absolutely beautiful. Has anyone strolled the Barcelona waterfront, the Passeig de Colom? Gorgeous. Have you strolled along the Seine River in Paris? Didn’t think so. Otherwise you’d know what world class waterfront destinations are.

  10. As a constant user of our fabulous beach, the biggest draw back is the lack of parking.
    Every weekend provides a true “cash cow” situation for the parking by law crew.
    I feel there is no point in expanding the activity area without expanding the soely lacking parking facilities (or lack of)
    Ken Medland Ward 2 @ 5.26 Pm

  11. That the planners presented 2 maps of the Master Plan of Burlington Beach which deliberately excluded the homes of the residents there is evidence of their motives to build whatever They please to make money for themselves with No consideration whatsoever for the residents or the public. It is a slap in the face to all involved that we spent time to come down and discuss these things and to learn that was never their intention. It is this arrogance and lack of consideration for anyone but themselves that has the public up in arms. This is especially true given the fact that is of No detrimental consequence to anyone or would not in any way be of benefit to the planners to have the residents removed. MIGHT IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES IS NOT RIGHT.

  12. There are many, many problems relative to this plan which require urgent attention. It’s not just the fact the “Feds” dumped on a lower level of government without consultation. We didn’t get to vote “up or down” on the lift bridge. Region has assumed responsibility for moving the Beachway plan forward. They plan to use tax money collected region-wide to execute property acquisition … whether or not … the idea is a popular.

    The Region is addressing the issue like [ it is / has been ] an “outstanding” item over a 40-year period.

    There are carcinogens in the water of the lake emanating from Randle reef. That’s probably why ( HPA … Hamilton Port Authority ) is unwilling to publicly take ownership of the Randle reef project. Similarly, Roger Santiago, Federal Senior Environmentalist assigned to Randle reef, has been unwilling, over the ENTIRE history of the Randle reef project, to give either embryonic or completion comments as to its anticipated effectiveness.

    Due to Global Warming, we are rapidly approaching, a mean temperature increase of + 2 degrees Celsius. Quite apart from any other consideration, how far do any of the people who MIGHT use the Beachway want to walk to play in the water? Is 300 ft. OK … 1/2 mile … or MORE?

    I think BOTH the Environmental and Global Warming concerns MUST be addressed before we proceed further.

    I am unconditionally OPPOSED to the Beachway project.

    Carl Stafford, Ward Four … We will achieve the 50-year residency threshold in three years.

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