The image above shows the area of the main beachfront commercial area under consideration in a Request For Proposal. The areas in purple are owned by the municipality; areas in yellow are privately held. - Town of Wasaga Beach Image
WBRA Director Peter Gribbin, a member of the former Downtown Development Master Plan Steering Committee, has written to Mayor Bifolchi questioning her on the nature of the community engagement process for the new Beachfront development . The mayor's answer is included.
Letter to the mayor
Delivered via Email
Town of Wasaga Beach
April 1, 2021
RE: Wasaga Beach Beachfront RFP & Public Engagement
Thank you for your very lengthy response to my brief letter of March 14, 2021.
In reviewing the overall response there appears to be a real difference in what Community Engagement truly means to you, differing from what it means to many residents of Wasaga Beach.
Here’s a definition furnished by a reputable company that The Town of Wasaga Beach employed for the very purposes of community engagement.
“Community engagement is based on the democratic idea that everyone who is affected by an issue that impacts their community should have a say in the decision making around it. It, moreover, holds the promise that public participation can influence decisions that affect the provision of services, future visions and sustainability of our communities”
(source: Bang The Table)
You are correct in pointing out I was involved in the Downtown Development Master Plan Steering Committee, and I, along with several other residents were proud to be a part of such a forward-thinking Plan. Finally, after many years of just seeing Vision documents, it looked like something real was finally going to happen.
Community Engagement was clearly evident along the way and several public meetings were held for residents to voice their opinions, ideas, etc., to shape the Plan.
Unfortunately, you disbanded that Committee, not surprisingly, as you appeared to vote against almost everything to do with the Downtown Development Master Plan.
So, fast forward to 2021.
Your response indicates the tax-paying public have had lots of opportunity to provide their input to the Beachfront development during the Open House meetings for the Downtown Development Master Plan. However, you cite public meetings from 2015-2018 with respect to this. You seem to believe that the general public had their chance way back then. Yet, you and the current Council, have abolished most of that Plan to the point where the public has no idea of what is or isn’t included in the Downtown Development Master Plan.
- The Community Hub which included a library/arena for Main Street was abolished.
- The prescriptive details have been changed from “shall” to “may”, etc., suggesting that specific things “may” not happen at all.
- The Arts focus, which was clearly a very strong need requested by the voting public at that time, doesn’t seem to be a focus at all in the Main Street area.
- Not only are you talking about Beachfront condos for Beach 1 and possibly Beach 2 but it is also a possibility that they will be 6 storeys versus the 4 storeys discussed in the original proposal.
The rest of the opportunities for public input you cite appear to be information telling the public what will happen versus engaging the public and specifically requesting real input for the purposes of planning what we need in Wasaga Beach.
The Beachfront development is following a similar process to the Arena/Library project.
When did you seek broad input on the location for the Arena/Library, and why was the chosen location decided on when it was far from being central for our residents, and furthest away from the Main and Beach area?
When did you seek approval from the tax-paying public on approving a $60 Million and rising spend, without any government funding?
Given this kind of decision-making, it should be no surprise at all that concerns are now arising on the prime Beachfront development. The RFP process has been shrouded in secrecy, the Approval Committee consists of three members of in-house staff plus you, the mayor.
Yet, the public has no say. . . unless, as you mention, the successful developers choose to engage the public.
Clearly, you will not be proposing any further public engagement if I am reading your lengthy response correctly.
Lastly, contrary to what you suggest, WBRA Inc., will continue to advise our members to seek information from a broad range of options, including, but certainly not limited to, just the Town’s website.
You continue to believe the Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association is a “small group”. When safety allows, this “small group” would appreciate the opportunity to host a true public meeting, allowing you to personally meet and interact with our members, giving them an opportunity to finally get answers to the many questions.
For the record, we will not share our list of members as we value our members' rights to privacy, and frankly, we are shocked you asked for it.
Like you, we also receive feedback from members from a particular social media site, which creates concern regarding abuse and safety.
The Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association Inc., does not claim to represent all Wasaga Beach residents, and similarly, you don’t represent all Wasaga Beach residents either.
We can disclose, however, that our “small group” as you call it, number in the hundreds. Moreover, the number of documented non-supporters of your untimely $60 million+ extravagant spend on an arena and library number over 1,000 and growing each day. These are bonafide and engaged tax-paying residents who care about the well-being of this town and are concerned about council decisions being made without true public engagement, especially during a pandemic when many businesses and residents would be suffering financially and the final impact is not near to being realized.
In closing, you bought, with taxpayer money, a service from “Bang the Table” and yet you have thus far only chosen to use this valuable tool to ask about something much less important in the whole scheme of things, such as Backyard Chickens.
One cannot help but question why other much more important topics have not been chosen?
Peter J Gribbin
Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association Inc.
The mayor's reply
From: Nina Bifolchi <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 9:42 AM
Subject: FW: Response Letter - Beachfront & Community Engagement
To: Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org></email@example.com></firstname.lastname@example.org></email@example.com>
Good morning Peter,
This is to confirm receipt of your recent letter.
While I have no intention of addressing all of your comments I will correct you on one.
On page three you indicate “The Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association Inc., does not claim to represent all Wasaga Beach residents, ,and similarly, you don’t represent all Wasaga Beach residents either.”
You are incorrect Peter. The Wasaga Beach Ratepayers Association was not duly elected by the residents and taxpayers of Wasaga Beach. Myself along with the rest of council are duly elected and represent the entire community.
As an elected official I support proper process that follows the municipal act, council’s code of conduct and my oath of office. I have an obligation to represent all of Wasaga Beach in the best interest of all of its residents including those who did not vote for me.
Have a great day.