Public money needed for wavebreak; independent review of options proposed

Burlington’s city manager is proposing to retain outside consultants at a cost of $150,000 to conduct a review of the LaSalle Park marina proposed permanent wavebreak and expansion, including more cost effective alternatives.

The recommendation comes after a review by the city’s finance staff of the LaSalle Park Marina Association’s (LPMA) finances determined that the association could not afford the permanent wavebreak, including annual debt repayments, deposit on a joint venture loan, and reserves for replacement/repair of infrastructure. The project also represents a risk to Burlington taxpayers, according to a finance staff report.

The LPMA operates a portion of the marina for its members under a joint venture agreement with the city. The balance of the marina includes a public boat launch, the Burlington Sailing & Boating Club (BS&BC) – many of whom are also LPMA members – and the Burlington Able Sail program (sponsored by Rotary, LPMA and BS&BC, as well as eight other corporate sponsors, and individual donors).

The LPMA has been advocating for a permanent rock wave break and additional boat slips to protect damage to boats and docks from storms and wave action. Currently, the marina has a floating wave break.

The estimated $14m cost of the proposed permanent wavebreak is proposed to come from federal/provincial grants of $9.4 million, and a Joint Venture Loan from the city or through Infrastructure Ontario (IO) of $4.6 million.

Debt repayment on a $4.6 million loan over 25 years would cost $268,000 per year, plus $80,000 per year for wavebreak maintenance. An infrastructure reserve to replace the existing finger docks is estimated to be $128,000 annually. After accounting for revenues and expenses including the above, the marina would be in a deficit of $204k in Year 1, dropping to a deficit of $175k in Year 5 after wavebreak installation, according to the city finance staff report.




These figures don’t include the 10% downpayment required for a joint venture loan ($1.4 million), or $350,000 for detailed design. Currently, the LPMA has $356,000 in a wavebreak replacement fund, which would be depleted by the design costs. There is also $400,000 in a reserve fund restricted to reimbursing original boaters (charter members) who contributed to the initial construction of the marina on the condition they would be fully refunded their contribution when they sold their slip. The existing obligations on the fund outweigh the balance: In 2015, there were 117 Charter members entitled to a refund, for a potential demand on the reserve fund of $625,000, according to the city manager’s report (pg. 5).




There is no request for direct funding for the project from the city, but there are still financial implications for the city and for taxpayers, according to finance staff. Taxpayers have already contributed to the LPMA with $350,000 for the environment assessment of the wavebreak (2011) and $6,800 for the boating capacity study (2013).

Typically senior government funding is received when a project is substantially complete. That means the city would have to “cash flow” these grant funds in advance. Cashflowing $9.4 million even for a short time represents “a taxpayer contribution”, not least of which because of forgone interest on those amounts – roughly $140,000 – that would need to be “supplemented by the tax base,” state finance staff. (pg. 8).

Whether the loan is through IO or the city, “the city would be fully responsible for repayment of this debt if LPMA defaults,” notes the report (pg 7). The loan would also impact the city’s debt limit policy. Debt repayment is 10 years, not 25 years as requested.

Currently, the LPMA does not qualify for a Joint Venture loan from the city, given that less than 80% of members are from Burlington. An estimated 44% of slips are currently owned or rented at the marina by Burlington residents, according to the city’s manager’s report (pg. 4).

If the marina is expanded as part of the wavebreak proposal, 70% of slips would be available for rental, shifting the marina from a resident marina meeting community needs to a transient marina serving the broader interests of boaters in the GTHA. This represents a fundamental transition from a Joint Venture that serves members interests to a contracted service managing city assets used by the general public, states the city manager’s report, adding that the city’s procurement process would normally require a competitive process for contracting out this service.

Due to the financial and policy implications to the city, the city manager recommended the city take carriage of the proposed wavebreak project, assess its alignment with the Strategic Plan and priority for capital funding, and undertake a review of the city’s Joint Venture Policy, particularly related to capital projects. He also recommended that LPMA be compensated for costs incurred to date in leading the project.

The proposed consultant’s review will include a financial assessment and recommended strategy if the assessment indicates the marina isn’t viable without an expansion and permanent wavebreak. The consultants will also review alternative wave break options to determine if there is a more cost effective solution.

The recommendations were approved at committee and head to council Oct. 3.

Earlier this year, council voted 6-1 to authorize the mayor to send a letter of support for senior government grants for the LPMA wavebreak project. We have subsequently been asked by provincial and federal officials where this fits in our priority list, given competing requests from the city for grants. The letter has been put on hold. I did not support sending the letter until we had the detailed financial analysis which we now have showing the potential risks to the city.

My Take: 

I supported the review of the city’s Joint Venture Policy at committee, but not the outsourcing of the financial review and analysis for $150,000. My rationale is that it would simply reinforce what we know: the permanent wavebreak requires a public financial contribution and isn’t a priority identified in our strategic plan.

However, I am considering changing my vote at council given the  need to assess the viability of the marina and explore more cost-effective wavebreak opportunities. Residents have been asking council to take a position on the wavebreak one way or the other for some time, which should have happened before the project was this far along. We now have that opportunity, with the consultant’s review to inform whatever position we take.

I don’t support  compensating the LPMA for costs. Taxpayers have already contributed over $350,000, and depending on the vote at council, will contribute another $150,000 for the independent review. Also, compensation would violate our existing Joint Venture Policy requirements for 100% self-funding of  capital infrastructure and renewal, particularly for membership-based facilities (pg 9-10 of the Joint Venture policy).

Earlier this year, council voted 6-1 to authorize the mayor to send a letter of support for senior government grants for the LPMA wavebreak project. I did not support sending the letter until we had the detailed financial analysis showing potential risks to the city. We now know there are substantial financial risks to the city.

We have also been asked by provincial and federal officials where this fits in our priority list, given competing requests from the city for grants.

I’m pleased the letter was not sent and has been put on hold pending further review of this project.

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. The only public funds I would be supportive of is for a study on the benefits of a marina on the at the canal end of the Burlington stretch of Lake Ontario . The current location has NO access to local amenities and therefore generates NO local income to the economy. The location served needs at the time, however, the continued siting of a marina needs to take in the longer term waterfront strategy and the greater good of the local economy – There is a limited permanency to the current siting. It is only the old guard membership which is getting in the way of a bigger and better marina for Burlington.

  2. There is not a Marina in this Province that makes money, I have boated for 55 years, both in Lake Ont, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay. Most marinas on this end of the Lake cater to sail boaters who historically do not spend any money, so there will be no local economic benefit. With this large a foot print and no other marine services (boat repairs, etc) to help offset the costs, this endeavor would fail quickly. Boating season no matter what people tell you is 3 months maximum.

    Also the comment made elsewhere in this string about the City rec users, we are talking 350,000 users from birth to death use these facilities, not 150 single identity users for a couple of months a year.

    What is going on with this City, council needs to get a handle on things, from Bike Clubs to Boat Clubs these special interest groups are unbelievable in what they want, but don’t want to pay for..

  3. I echo Mr. Campbell’s thoughts. We visit the LaSalle Park dock area often and see sailing school boats putting in and taking out by the old dock, not near the marina. They have their own wavebreak between the dock and the lovely promontory when heading out or in. So this proposed wavebreak is for marina boaters alone. These private individuals, most who are not Burlington residents, have funded their recreational pursuit right from the beginning. The city (ie. the taxpayer) is under no obligation to fund their continuing pursuit. And it seems there is little public appetite to begin any funding. It would be a mistake for the city to give any impression that help in funding a permanent wavebreak for the benefit alone of a small number of Burlington residents might come to pass.

  4. I am a Marina Member and as it stands now, we have wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on evaluations, discussions in an outright failure to have a “rock wall” to protect a few boaters (of which we are one) rather than spending money wisely to enhance our Marina to a point where docks and wave breaks could have been purchased.

    It is NOT the idea of many boaters at LaSalle to spend this money frivolously but rather a few that are chasing a DREAM that is both not realistic nor practical.

    I’ve also had enough of the wasteful spending of our Marina dollars on DREAMS!

    Spend money to clean it up so that more boaters don’t leave to greener pastures. As it stands now, I see more and more boaters leaving to other Marinas that manage their locations far more reserve while correcting fundamental systems that draw boaters to it then drive them away!

    Enough already!

    Stop this spending and clean the place up!

    Another concerned boater at LaSalle …. I agree with the city …. stop the madness!

  5. The residents were opposed to paying for the relocation of the railway station and guess what the people interested in preserving it got together and raised the money themselves. Congratulations to them, great job and it looks good.
    I think the same should happen for the marina. Those interested in doing whatever they want should raise the money privately and go thru all the loops and expense to get it approved without any taxpayer funds.
    We the citizens of Burlington are fed up with increased taxes and utility bills.

  6. I remember trying to walk out on the jetty at Lasalle, just to look into the water for fish, and was told it was for members only. One gets the impression that it is them and us. Why then am I paying for any of this? If the City has some spare cash, I would like it going towards the new hospital and facilities, badly needed. I see Paletta is matching any amounts.

  7. Over the years the city has build swimming pools, tennis courts, ice rinks, etc. At no time did these participants pay for the facility. They only pay for usage. The amount of money that boaters pay in purchase, maintenance and slip rental is more than any other sport. The GST dollars at 13% is quite a large sum. Some of that money comes back to the city in the form of grants. Burlington had a sailing club and a marina many years ago. It now is in Bronte. I for one, hope Council approves of the Marina’s request.

    • You must be dreaming, there is no way a few hundred boaters boat purchase, maintenance and slip rentals makes up any where near the same 13% GST that is generated for purchase of sports equipment rental etc. by the WHOLE of a city, by every adult and child……and if so….prove it in actual dollar and cents comparison….and so by your logic you and a few hundred boaters can take millions of dollars in tax payers grants because you pay GST…..

    • The city has paid for initial construction of community centres, however it is standard practise for user groups to pay when they are asking for an “enhancement” over and above what the city believes is required for the community. For example: the artificial turf fields at Sherwood – paid for by the soccer club ($900k). The proposed enhancements to Nelson stadium includes cost for the user groups. The enlarged Nelson pool, again includes costs paid by the users. At the seniors centre, new stoves and counters were paid for by the Burlington Seniors Centre Incorporated board out of their own fees. It is standard practise to ask for contributions from users, over and above rent fees paid. The LPMA is being treated equally in their request for an enhanced breakwall.

  8. I don’t understand why the city would consider subsidising a few wealthy boaters many of whom don’t even live in the city yet balk at subsidising transit for seniors. For a small portion of the marina expenditure, we could fill our empty buses with seniors during off-peak hours.

  9. Enough already! Taxpayers have already out out $363,000 & now more? No, its time organizations in this city found their own funds for plans such as these. Taxpayers can’t be expected to keep shelling out money, our pocket books are already stretched to the limit with the burden of taxation & other costs we’re burdened with by Wynn & Trudeau.

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