Sidney will honour an agreement made with a pair of waterfront property owners back in around 2001, committing to keeping land clear of new commercial units for at least another 14 years.
On Tuesday night, Town councillors voted to remove references to commercial containers or other units for property along the waterfront walkway in front of the Sidney Waterfront Inn, within its revised Downtown Waterfront Vision plan. They also asked staff to write a letter to the property owners, stating that intent.
Sidney is currently developing its new waterfront vision plan. One of the suggestions made within it, is to rework a portion of the walkway in front of the Inn and include “flexible commercial units (e.g., shipping containers) and public washroom.” The uses for the units could be recreation-based or food services.
That section raised concerns from Sidney Waterfront Inn owners Denis Paquette and Roselyn McDermid. In a letter to council, they refer to promises made when the waterfront walkway was being developed.
“We made an agreement with the Town that nothing would be built or placed in front of our land and that access to our foreshore lease would not be impeded,” they wrote, asking that this element of the vision plan be removed as a result of that agreement.
In a staff report to council, Manager of Planning Alison Verhagen stated the Town’s lease files include a letter from Nov. 16, 20o1, showing the Town agreed to incorporate wording into the Town’s lease with the Province for the portion of waterfront walkway south of Beacon Avenue. That wording would provide for unimpeded access across the area to the diver’s ramp, for a period of 30 years (2001 to 2031).
Verhagen noted the current wording in the Town’s License of Occupation is slightly different, stating “(The Town) must … agree to permit the free and unrestricted access (to the property owner) across the land.”
Verhagen suggested in her report that since Sidney’s waterfront plan is a vision document only, the reference to commercial units in that area does not necessarily have to be removed.
Councillors, however, felt that the original agreement should be upheld and the property owner assured that noting would be built in that specific area for the term of the current lease.
“This comes down to good faith,” said Coun. Barbara Fallot, adding while the issue is only in a visioning document any may never come to pass, she felt the agreement the town made with the landowners needs to be honoured.
Coun. Tim Chad added he’d never support “tin cans” sitting on the Town’s waterfront.
“We have no idea what could go there,” said Mayor Steve Price.
“I don’t want to go back on that agreement,” added Coun. Peter Wainwright, who said he was on the council at the time it was made.
He said the Town should be clear that they will honour that agreement, even though the official paperwork doesn’t exist with the exact wording referenced in the staff report.
Coun. Erin Bremner-Mitchell said she felt the vision statement could have remained as-is and the Town could still show Paquette and McDermid that they planned to honour the agreement.
“Ten to 15 years from now, another council could change this,” Price added, noting the lease held by the property owners will expire in 2031.