Land ownership casts shadow over Cornwall waterfront plan

Cornwall Planning Advisory Committee lay members Amanda Brisson and Ron Symington speak during a PAC meeting on Monday, July 29, 2019. Critics of Cornwall's waterfront plan argue that it makes plans for land the city doesn't own. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – While Cornwall’s updated waterfront plan was well received, critics argue the plans involve land the city doesn’t even own.

“I think you’re putting the cart before the horse,” committee lay member Ron Symington said during a Cornwall Planning Advisory Committee meeting Monday night.

A lot of the waterfront between Pointe Maligne and the Moses-Saunders Dam is owned by the federal government. The city is currently planning to talk with the feds in September with the hope of buying some or all of that land.

PAC’s other lay member, Amanda Brisson, found the 200-page plan “very complicated to see its level” and also said, based on her math, only 0.5 per cent of Cornwall’s population had been consulted. There were three public meetings, online surveys and stakeholder interviews done in putting the report together.

The waterfront plan makes 77 recommendations and comes with a price tag of just over $24 million over a 25 year time frame.

Councillors also had some concerns and suggestions. Coun. Eric Bergeron didn’t agree with the preferential weighing of certain projects. “I don’t hear a lot of beach requests,” he said, referring to the top priority to build a beach at Guindon Park.

Coun. Todd Bennett says the city should prioritize projects that are revenue generators. He said this would mean the city would “not keep going back to the tax base” and be more “self sufficient” by using money to build the waterfront from projects that make money.

Some in the public, who were allowed to submit comments, liked the plan. Jordan Wheeler called it “good policy” and said city departments should be aggressive in moving the plan ahead. Kyle Bergeron said the former Domtar land is holding the city back and the city needs to “suck it up” and buy and clean the land itself. Kelly Bergeron said the plan is a “wonderful vision.”

No decisions have been made on the waterfront plan. It has been referred to city council.