A report before Sidney council Monday recommends the municipality maintain Beacon Wharf for as long as possible without replacing it, while also leaving the door open to replacement.
The report also appears to signal the end of plans to replace the wharf with a floating pontoon in a public-private partnership.
“People can rest assured that the P3 floating wharf option will not be proceeding and therefore the wharf may be maintained for as long as feasible,” it reads. “The wharf should be reassessed on a regular basis and a future (council) may determine how much to invest in repairs to the wharf to keep it going.”
This recommendation comes after staff evaluated the results of a recent survey on the future of the facility after council presented the public with two formal options: maintain the wharf as long as possible, then remove it without replacing or replace it with a floating pontoon under a public-partnership with Marker Group.
Almost 43 per cent of respondents (459) favoured removal without replacement, while the P3 option received 230 responses. Another 293 responses opted for the broad category of ‘other’ with 234 of those expressing what staff call a “preference to keep, maintain, or rebuild as close to the current configuration as possible.”
The recommendation to remove the wharf without replacing it after maintaining it for as long as possible is part of a quartet of recommendations. Staff also recommends planning for a re-imagined waterfront begins within five years, that the next assessment of the wharf takes place in 2024 and that the existing commercial on the wharf be extended to the end of 2024 with potential future extensions subject to the next assessment of the wharf.
But the report also leaves room for a new wharf by stating council may consider replacing the old wharf following additional public consultations.
The report comes after a protest last month that called on the municipality to preserve the wharf and the businesses that operate on it with an eye toward refurbishing the facility for the future. Organizers also called on the municipality to pause the current process and make more of an effort to engage the community.
The report acknowledges the potential benefits of such a pause (“a pause is likely healthy for the community”) while recommending efforts to preserve the wharf for as long as possible. But the report also raises questions about the commitment of citizens to borrow large sums of money related to the wharf. While the survey showed “slightly more support for borrowing” than opposition, the high number of those opposed (49.6 per cent of respondents) make it “unlikely” that an alternate approval process for future borrowing would be successful.
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