Categories: Downtown & Waterfront

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

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.

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. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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