I went down to the harbour today to take a couple of photographs of the piece of town land known as “Block 9.” I wanted to show my readers just how little a piece it is and what condition it’s in now. The aerial photo above shows the property outlined in orange (the photograph is several years out of date, but the property lines remain the same).
The photograph below shows the land from the northwest corner, looking southeast. Notice the water that has collected because the land lies much lower than surrounding properties and has no drainage (no, it isn’t a swimming hole: it’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes). Also notice the hoarding along the south that extends along Huron Street in front of the private property, but only to the eastern edge of the town property:
Here’s a photo looking southwest from the northeast corner. the building on the right is the new Bank of Montreal building. Notice the hoarding on the left does not extend across the border of the town land, so the public can see this dreary piece of untended, public property. Shouldn’t the town be forced to live up to the same property standards the rest of us have to obey?
This is looking due east from the western side. Residents living in the homes east of Heritage Drive (middle right) have to look at this eyesore every day. Notice the hydro poles that prevent major development on this site. This property is also within the Nottawasaga 100-year flood plain, so building on it is doubly restricted.
The image below looks north from the sidewalk along Huron Street, showing the weeds the town allows to grow on its land. it also shows the terminals (middle left). Unless you are on stilts or stand nine feet-plus tall, you cannot actually see the water, although it is just on the other side of the chain link fence that crosses the middle. When people talk about sight lines to the water and the harbour, this is what they can see. Private properties to the right and left of the hydro poles are zoned commercial and will one day be developed, obstructing even the view of the terminals from Huron Street, Nothing done with this property will change that.
These photographs all show the property condition as it is now: shabby and ignored, as it has been for more than two decades. and how it will continue to look if it is not developed. And developing it into a park is something the town will never do by itself. Clearly the town isn’t even interested in maintaining it. I find it telling that Fram, the company that negotiated to buy all the rest of the shipyards lands, wasn’t interested in owning Block 9.
The aerial photograph below shows Block 9 (solid orange) and the piece of property that was offered in trade (outlined in orange). Which makes more sense to own, which would benefit the community more: a small, landlocked slice that has no intrinsic value to the town and is inaccessible to the public, or a large piece of environmentally-protected waterfront property that could have public access and trails, potentially another launch site for small watercraft, and might even host a boardwalk in future?
Also note that, aside from the roads, all of the properties adjacent to Block 9 and on the nearby Shipyards lands are all privately owned, and already zoned for commercial or residential development as per the Official Plan. Plus, Block 9 is not on the waterfront, but rather across a road from it. And the water closest to it is the old launch basin; hardly a stirring vista.
So: seeing these, do you think council should sell a muddy field of weeds with a mosquito pond that the town has ignored since the days we were known as Hens and Chicken Harbour, and as a result of the sale we will have a well-tended parking lot with a small, publicly-accessible parkette on it ?
Or should council do what Deputy Mayor Brian “Procrastinator” Saunderson suggests and wait for an irrelevant strategic plan that should not be even considering micro-managing properties , AND then wait for an imaginary waterfront master plan that is so far below council’s radar it wasn’t even budgeted for this year? Wait for another 18 to 24 months, maybe even longer before council even bothers to decide on the sale?
Where’s the leadership in that? Where is the accountability?
If we are left to look at an eyesore for more years while we wait for plans and reports to avoid taking action, people may start referring to the water on Block 9 as ‘Saunderson’s Pond.’