March of this year architects were hired to come up with a design for a town square for Sauble Beach. On July 18, 2017 their proposal was presented to council.
The proposal was not really for a town square at all. It was for a rock concert venue for the almost exclusive benefit of tourists and the tourist trade.
At the July 18 meeting it became clear that the idea was controversial.
A council meeting was set for August 5th to get public input.
A July 27th Wiarton Echo article noted the controversy over the project and announced the August 5th meeting.
Residents came to the August 5th meeting expecting an opportunity to voice their concerns or support in front of their peers. Instead they arrived to find that there was no room on the agenda for residents to comment.
Councillor Vukovic indicated to the mayor that we would leave the meeting (which would end it for lack of council quorum) if the residents were not allowed to voice their concerns publically at the meeting.
The Mayor reluctantly agreed to allow each resident to ask one question at the meeting, after the architect’s presentation.
Residents were not permitted to make comments, and the architects and council members were not permitted to respond to the residents’ questions.
It was a sham – not a real public meeting at all.
Residents were invited to submit comments, in writing, as long as they did so by 4:30 Tuesday the 7th (3 days later). Many complained that the timeline was far too short.
Then on August 8th the mayor called a special meeting of council for Friday August 11th for the purpose of making a decision regarding the town square.
This fast schedule is shutting out the residents to a large degree. But worse it is pushing council to make a fast decision rather than slowing down and doing it right.
Mayor Jackson said in council July 18, and is quoted in the echo as saying: “My only concern is that it’s up and running by Canada Day next year”.
The fast special August 11th meeting is clearly to try to meet Janice Jackson’s desired schedule.
But there is no justification for such a fast track. We have managed fine without a town square forever. The sky is not going to fall if we don’t have a town square completed by Canada day 2018. The sky is not going to fall if we slow down and do this right, even if that means not meeting Janice Jackson’s schedule.
The August 11th meeting was called to try to ram through a decision. This in my view is the wrong strategy.
Many concerns have been raised on facebook pages, on blogs, in the August 5th meeting, and elsewhere. Concerns include the high cost to taxpayers for the structures, potentially very high maintenance and operating costs, feasibility of the composting toilets, noise, liablity, safety, poor suitability for Sauble, and others. These are valid concerns that need to be addressed in a transparent and deliberate way.
I encourage all residents to email council and suggest that the Sauble Town Square decision process be slowed down and modified to include residents in a more meaningful way.
If you decide to come to the council meeting on the 10th (tomorrow), be aware that residents will not likely be permitted to speak.
Lastly I could not help but wonder why the Mayor is so bent on completing her $900,000 plus town square by July 1, 2018 (less than eleven months away). Then I recalled that we have an election about October 28, 2018, and campaigning starts in earnest about Canada Day (July 1) 2018.
Welcome to the world of politics.