South Dundas won’t wade into monumental waterfront stumbling block

This conceptual drawing from the December 2013 Morrisburg Waterfront Phase I Concept Plan shows a bird's eye view of what the waterfront would look like, looking south from the intersection of Ottawa and First Streets. The waterfront committee is trying to get council to help in a dispute with the Morrisburg Royal Canadian Legion over relocating their monuments. (MTBA Consulting via Newswatch Group)

MORRISBURG – Getting the former village of Morrisburg’s waterfront developed has hit a stumbling block and the chairman of the waterfront committee is looking for help.

Brian Veinotte told South Dundas council Tuesday they need the municipality’s aid in settling a dispute with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 48.

It’s concerning a monument in the park that the committee would like to see moved in order to start the first phase of development.

The first phase of the project calls developing the west side of the shoreline with a welcome center, an orchard, lighted and tree-lined paths and a waterfront lookout.

It would cost about $7.4 million, based on the 2013 study. If the upcoming 2016 budget is approved, there will be $50,000 to get started with some aspects of the plan.

“Currently, what the waterfront committee would like to achieve for this year is, we’d like to move a few things and create a commemorative square around the legion. What that does for us is, it allows us to move a few things but start with something that shows the community that we’re actually focusing on doing something,” Veinotte told council.

He said cleaning up the area would allow development of “the hub” or the focal point of the multi-million dollar project.

“We need your endorsement because, as it stands right now, we’re stuck,” said a frustrated Veinotte. “The kink is the legion doesn’t appear to want us to move the monuments…that is a problem.”

The committee chairman said the legion monument “throws a whole wrench into the project” because it doesn’t fit with the “classy” plan. “It’s a war memorial. It has names of people who fought in the war and died. We don’t want to have it part of a hot dog stand,” Veinotte said.

The chairman suggested there’s a few people within the legion – roughly 30 – that are vehemently against the waterfront development. “That was 30 people making a decision for 10,000…that’s not fair.”

“That’s where we stand, we need your endorsement and if we have your endorsement then we’re ready to get at it, full blast,” he said.

But council wasn’t ready to wade into the dispute between its waterfront committee and the legion, instead, recommending the two sides talk it out first.

Coun. Marc St. Pierre, the council representative on the waterfront committee, said the legion has been encouraged to join the committee. “We opened the door and invited them in to talk about their concerns and to join the committee…and I think the next step is getting them to the table and seeing if there’s any compromise.”

If they can’t get the legion members to the table, Coun. Bill Ewing threw out the idea of a booth at the trade show (the first week of April) to be able to catch legion members. Ewing suggested the discussion at the council meeting was just “bashing the legion” and both sides needed to talk. “I’m not prepared to just come and say, we’re moving it. Those are the people that looked after us, why we’re here today.”

Mayor Evonne Delegarde seemed to defend the legion, saying they “certainly gave the impression they were going to send a couple of people” to the committee. “The conversation with the legion has to happen…how can we make things agreeable to everyone?”

Deputy Mayor Jim Locke said council shouldn’t get involved. “I don’t want to see council get involved in the legion dispute. That’s something between the waterfront committee and the legion,” Locke said.

“I’m not ready to trample on sacred ground as far as forcing the legion (to move the monuments),” Coun. Archie Mellan added.

“We just want the council’s input with the legion to see if we can’t come to a better decision on this because the waterfront committee doesn’t really have any power,” Veinotte said in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch following his presentation.

So what’s next?

“We asked the legion, told them that there’s two spaces open on the waterfront committee because we don’t have enough members to do what we want to do. I also told them, try to find creative people because there are some people that are very creative so why not harness their brain power? So hopefully we’ll get some people that are interested in making something happen,” Veinotte said.

The Morrisburg Waterfront Committee meets March 16, 2016 though it’s not clear whether the Royal Canadian Legion will be at the table.