Vying for top spot in Port Stanley as the local news maker of 2013 were the institution
of paid parking at the beach and the proposed creation of a new Heritage Conservation
District. In the rest of Central Elgin, Prespa's Lynhurst infilling and the Eastwood
Servicing Project duked it out for top spot.
The Municipality of Central Elgin instituted its paid parking at the beach by the
2013 Victoria Day weekend, turning the west side of the harbour lands which they
had purchased into a giant paid parking lot (that got almost no use during the entire
season) and getting some of the private landowners in the main beach area to agree
to turning their land into a paid parking lot. The implementation was not without
its hiccups, from people being issued parking tickets in unmarked areas of the village
to a lack of machines to provide change for the parking meters (and sometimes ticketed
while trying to find a spot to get change for the machines). As well, there were
grading issues with people becoming stuck in mud after a rain, and the "Lake Boardwalk"
which occurs after every heavy rainfall and floods out a large section of the municipal
parking lot by Mackies, as well as a large part of Mackies parking lot, remains
and unresolved inadequate drainage issue. The municipality made about 30 percent
of the revenue they expected to make, but that net profit did not include the cost
of the lifeguards.
Weather played a major role in Port Stanley's fortunes again this year. It was unusually
cold and wet, significantly reducing the number of visitors to Port throughout the
spring and fall, and much of the summer. One thing was particularly noticeable -
no traffic jams from any large and sudden one day influx of beach visitors. Other
than parking, traffic issues were moot.
The institution of a Heritage Conservation District, proposed by the Port Stanley
BIA, the Port Stanley Village Association and Heritage Port - who together represent
less than 20 per cent of the village's population - has also met with stiff opposition
from the normally "silent" majority. Originally suggested just for the downtown
business district on Main and Bridge Streets, it was expanded to include the entire
harbour area, all of William, Maud, Bessie, Erie, Lotus Lane, part of Edith Cavell,
Colonel Bostwick, Hetty Street, and Colborne down to Foodland. That "expansion"
stuck a sword into the side of the sleeping dragon and the proponents have had to
scale back the size of the area requested for designation closer to the original
proposal. It still has to pass council and there is still strong opposition. The
silent majority is getting suspicious and beginning to ask who will personally profit
from this proposal.
Deputy Mayor David Marr's concept of using Selbourne Park as the location for a
new fire hall in Port Stanley also generated some backlash from the silent majority,
giving it the number three spot for news maker of the year. Locally, fourth spot
goes to lack of news and lack of any real development on Port Stanley harbour.
The harbour and its approach remain undredged. The west and east breakwaters continue
to deteriorate with no public access to the "pier" being restored. The west harbour
has been turned into nothing more than a giant and ugly parking lot. The east harbour
and berm areas remain untouched other than having most of the access to them blocked
off. The harbour now looks worse and is less accessible than when it was under Transport
Canada's care, and no viable business plan for harbour development has yet been
put forward by the municipality.
Broadening our scope to include the entire municipality, Lynhurst residents fought
hard against the proposed Prespa Construction infilling plan of condominium for
their area and lost. Though it will dramatically change the nature of that neighbourhood,
the council of the day ultimately sided with the developer. Eastwood residents in
the Centennial Ave area also fought against being forced to hook up to new sewers
being installed in their area, at a time when provincial grant funding to help offset
some of the costs for these residents had dried up, unlike earlier stages of the
project. Citing they were not experiencing septic system failures, they asked the
project be delayed until grant funding for it again became available. Council proceeded
with the project's timing despite the residents' objections and the residents' association
engaged the services of a lawyer. That issue still has not yet played out to its
2013 - a year of little progress but lots of controversy.