Waterfront property — the kind where the public is welcome and where the citizens happen to own it — is exceedingly rare in Sidney.
So, when there’s a proposal to sell it, exchange it and redevelop it, people understandably get anxious and start asking questions. That’s what happened to Sidney town council when it entered into an agreement with Sidney Waterfront Partnership (SWP) to do just that at the Seaport East lands, north of the Pier Hotel and Beacon Park. And while the proposal has been kyboshed by the municipality in the wake of the discovery of contamination at the site, fears over what might happen to that property still linger.
There are calls for it to remain public land — along with some sort of development there that enhances the area, rather than mixing in residential units that could give it an air of exclusivity. Some folks want a grand destination down there, something that will attract more people like the good old days when Mineral World was the focus on the waterfront there.
The question is, who will build something like that? Municipalities aren’t generally in the business of going into business and is the local economy one that will support a public attraction? As the current leaseholder, SWP has to balance those demands with a fair economic return on investment. And in any case, anything that happens there will require the site to be cleaned up — and that may not happen until it’s redeveloped. The Town in all likelihood isn’t going to pay to remove everyone from the site, pay to have it cleaned up and then pay to move everyone back again. SWP, in the meantime, has at least 24 years on the lease in which to operate and may be in the best position to do something once the Town clarifies its position.
There are questions hovering over Seaport East as Sidney finds itself back to square one. Residents will demand answers on the matter of making the site ready for redevelopment down the road but in this election year, they may have to wait a little longer.