A Sidney councillor deeply familiar with the options around Beacon Wharf warns against expectations of quick action as the community contemplates the future of the iconic facility.
“The key thing here is that this is not going to happen next year, ” said Coun. Peter Wainwright, one of three councillors on the committee overseeing the process. He made this comment as the public has until Oct. 15 to submit their feedback on the two official options before the public: removal of the structure with no replacement or its replacement by a pontoon once part of a floating bridge in Washington State under a public-private partnership (P3) with Marker Group.
Regardless of the future direction, any changes to the area will involve the federal government through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and depending on the chosen option, changes to the water lot and its zoning, Wainwright noted.
More fundamentally, the municipality cannot do any of the options being discussed without what Wainwright called “a significant amount of borrowing” requiring public approval.
“(Because) all of the assent-free borrowing was used up by the previous council with the community safety building, we would not be able to undertake any of these options without support from the voters, as in referenda,” he said. “If they don’t approve the borrowing, nothing is happening. Anything would be a complete waste of time if we don’t respect what the majority of the community wants to see happening. So we are focused on that.”
But it is not entirely clear what the community wants as staff have yet to compile and catalogue all of the submissions for review and analysis.
Part of the problem may have been the process so far, said Wainwright, who said additional process is necessary. “We didn’t ask some of the questions that are very key to our decision-making,” he said.
What Wainwright called a “non-trivial” number of respondents feel strongly that Sidney should own and have control over whatever happens to the wharf. “And there were people who were strongly opposed to doing anything with Marker (Group),” he said. “So there is a segment that is opposed to any form of public-private partnership and it is not clear whether they are willing to pay the cost that is associated if we were to say no public-private partnership.”
But Wainwright said the questions that need to be asked are whether residents are fundamentally opposed to a public-private partnership – in general – and if opposed, are residents willing to add to the price tag.
Wainwright said the cheapest option would be to simply remove the wharf without replacing it, followed by the P3 proposal, the floating structure with no P3, and then following that, would be other options that could range in price up to $17 million.
Wainwright said later that even a scaled-down version of the P3 (say, without a hotel) would be the cheapest option, as the municipality would have an opportunity to negotiate with Marker Group.
Wainwright said Sidney is looking into grants, but noted this process also takes time. Projects must be shovel-ready to secure grant funding, but getting anything shovel-ready could take years.
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