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Public correspondence reveals strong opposition to pontoon replacing Sidney’s Beacon Wharf

Discussions continue with public engagement session on Wednesday, from 11 am to 2 pm
This was the scene in Sidney’s Beacon Park Tuesday, Sept. 21 as the municipality held the first of two engagement sessions around the future of Beacon Wharf. The municipality has presented the public with two official options — replace the wharf with a pontoon or not replace it all. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

The most recent round of public correspondence around Beacon Wharf in Sidney shows opposition to plans to replace it with a floating wharf, but also some support.

“I feel that Sidney must not put a large float wharf at the end of Beacon,” said Lynne Urquhart, who submitted one of 10 pieces of correspondences to Sidney council on the subject, as found in the agenda package for Sidney’s regular council meeting on Sept. 27. While she said the fish market is an icon and part of the ambience of the town, she added Sidney should support current businesses around town instead of adding more commercial space.

Council received this letter after the municipality hosted the first of two public engagement sessions on Sept. 21. A second session is scheduled for Sept. 29. Members of the public can also fill out a survey that remains open until Oct. 15.

While not a true gauge of the community’s sentiments on the topic, six out of the 10 submitted pieces express opposition to replacing the wharf with a pontoon as part of a public-private partnership with Sidney Waterfront Partnership.

he company would transform the pontoon into a floating wharf, which would have a two-storey building featuring a restaurant and two commercial spaces (one reserved for the municipality) on the main floor and eight hotel units above.

RELATED: Sidney invites public feedback on future of Beacon Wharf

Opponents of the pontoon option either favour retaining and repairing the existing wharf or not replacing it all, the second official option currently receiving public feedback. But the correspondence also includes a letter of support.

“I overlook Beacon Park and the current wharf and fish market and I will be delighted when both are gone, (provided) that a world-class attractive waterfront feature replaces it,” said Don Carscadden in his letter. “The idea of the floating pontoon is an excellent one for many technical and logistical reasons, as well as practical ones and esthetics too,” he added.

The agenda package for Sept. 13 included 14 pieces of correspondence with 10 pieces expressing varying levels of opposition to the floating wharf proposal, while the Aug. 16 agenda included seven pieces of correspondence, with six expressing opposition to the pontoon proposal.

RELATED: Sidney won’t add third option to Beacon Wharf engagement process

While opponents cited several reasons, many lamented the potential loss of the iconic blue building, home of Satellite Fish Company market, as well as the building hosting the Sidney Pier Bistro. Other critics focused on the perceived commercialization of the waterfront.

While some writers accuse the municipality of tipping the scale in favour of the Sidney Waterfront Partnership by limiting the discussion to two official options, the breadth of input found in the correspondence also gives some credence to the prediction from members of the select committee tasked with reviewing the future of the wharf that the engagement process would yield input that goes beyond the two options.

Whether it will make the larger goal of shaping the future of Sidney’s waterfront any easier pursuit remains an unanswered question.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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