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by Doug Harvey
2018 Local News Makers

Vying for top spot in Port Stanley as the local news maker of 2018 were the new George Street development and the results of the 2018 Municipality of Central Elgin Election. An honourable mention also goes to Prespa's William Street high-rise proposal that went from a single nine story building to two five story buildings, and the final stages of harbour remediation and risk management measures that Transport Canada agreed to get completed duked it out for top spot.

The top two stories for 2018 I believe are linked together and the results of the Central Elgin 2018 Election were directly related to the actions of our past Council on the new proposed George Street development. During the time leading up to the election, many questions were being asked and many decisions were being made concerning the proposed 6-story apartment heights, and general road access in and out of the George Street area. To smooth out some of the concerns that people had about traffic, a traffic study was conducted on the whole Port Stanley road system to test how traffic would flow during busy high volume weekend times to regular weekday volumes. Most people from the George St. area that reviewed the traffic study results believed that another secondary road access was needed into the new development because of the number of new homes proposed.

Because of Council's indecision regarding the Prespa 9-story proposal on William St. and of the fact that this indecision was made so very public several times in and out of the news, a different course seemed to be in the works. With so many public concerns raised just before an election, it seemed like every politician's dream was becoming a reality, and choosing the right answers to those concerns would end up defining the outcome of that election. With all the extra political mileage gained and time spent at Council meetings on the many aspects of this George St. proposal, not much change was accomplished on the most significant building heights and road access issues of the area except for a proposal for a traffic circle along George street at the intersection of a new street in the project. The real change seemed to happen later at the Central Elgin 2018 Election ballot box where all that high mileage political mumbo jumbo defined the success or failure of being elected for the next Council.

Prespa's William Street High-rise

Who knew that an empty field that was used as a makeshift free parking lot for the visiting weekend tourist which was to be transformed to a row of 3-story townhouses and a 9-storey apartment building would cause such a series of events that are still today, frozen in time.

The development proposal began life at a January 2016 Central Elgin Council meeting where a public meeting was scheduled for March 1st, 2016 at 7:00 p.m at the Port Stanley Arena. Opposition was loud, clear and growing against this new development because of the proposed 9-story building heights and was well represented at that public meeting. In the spring, the 3-story townhouses began being built, but any decision from Council on the proposed 9-story building was never given.

After two years of indecision, this year in August the proposal went before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, but at the initial meeting a revised proposal was introduced by Prespa that changed the single nine story building into two five story buildings. Any decision on what will be built there is still undecided for 2018, but hopefully with a little luck, a final decision will be made in 2019.

Widespread discontent of having this development in limbo for the last two years may have added to the reasons for a change in the local political landscape from the voting silent majority.

The Final Stages of Harbour Remediation

A long awaited milestone was achieved on the Berm in 2018 as the final stages of harbour remediation and risk management measures that Transport Canada agreed to got completed. For years under Canadian Government control, the Berm served as a parking lot for Little Beach on the East side, a do it yourself make shift park in the center, and on the West side a storage and staging area with paved parking. The West side was also home for some large chemical storage tanks that were removed in August 2010, a small commercial office that was also removed, and leftovers of an old coal storage yard. The initial efforts to clean up the East Berm ended just before the Harbour Divestiture in September 2010 with the removal of the chemical tanks.

It's been over eight years to get this far and what will happen next with the Berm depends upon how the secondary plan for the Port Stanley Harbour gets adopted. Because of an almost clean sweep of Central Elgin Council in the 2018 Election, a different approach and direction may be on the horizon. Any redevelopment of divestiture lands will be a challenge due to ownership restrictions that limit the sale of any divestiture lands without a payback of divestiture funds during the term of the agreement.

2018 - busy on paper and lots of controversy.

Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 December 2018 12:24:55 PM EST

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