Original Published on Aug 16, 2022 at 12:43

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Penetanguishene residents will soon get their say on the town dock redesign project.

At a presentation by Sajecki Planning to Penetanguishene council during a recent regular meeting, an update on the town dock secondary plan and master plan was provided. Information included a traffic and parking analysis completed at council’s request, specifically aimed at re-evaluating parking considerations for the proposed area.

Following the November 2021 council meeting presentation, concerns were raised centering around logistics of vehicle and trailer movement for the roughly 110 waterfront parking spaces.

Back at the drawing board, Sajecki Planning addressed questions of parking practicality, turning radii, boat accommodation, the provision of accessible parking, and the assurance of adequate cruise boat loading and access. 

Design engineering firm Wood were retained to evaluate the area and provide options for functionality and accessibility, verifying 110 paved town dock spaces and an unknown amount of informal spaces in the launch area, as contrasted with the previous number of 123 spaces from a 2019 downtown parking study. 

Senior planner Dylan Dewsbury of Sajecki Planning presented two parking options most preferred by the Technical Advisory Committee for council’s consideration. 

“There was a reduction in the total number of parking spaces as a result of making sure that they were practical and there was enough room for manoeuvrability,” explained Dewsbury. 

The first option included a roundabout near the Dock Lunch property, offering three accessible spaces, 21 single spaces, and 35 trailer spaces – 20 of which could be used as two single spaces. 

“Effectively, that would mean in this option you could potentially have 61 vehicle spaces, and 15-plus-vehicle trailer spaces. It builds in a little bit of flexibility, and if it’s not a particularly good boating weekend, there’s more car parking.”

Option two removed the proposed roundabout and added parking spaces near the water closer to Dock Lunch, resulting in three accessible spaces, 32 single spaces, and 36 trailer spaces – 20 of which could be used as two single spaces.

Both options included a widened access from Main Street, vehicular wharf access to the north dock, and a delivery area.

Dewsbury assured council that the proposed options were “purely conceptual at the moment” with the public plaza from previous presentations still in place for its purpose as a pedestrian-oriented location.

Andrea Betty, director of planning and community development, affirmed that Sajecki Planning had also been retained to help draft an official plan amendment for the project, requiring adoption by council and approval by the county.

“The master plan and the secondary plan currently – even if council approves it – it doesn’t actually come into effect until our planning documents through our official plan are updated,” said Betty. 

With that, the planners opened the floor for council to weigh in on the draft documents for minor revisions and changes prior to the planned public meeting.

Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau found the update “more palatable” but asked for clarification. “Both options that have been presented are using all the property that is down there, even a piece of property that, currently, does not belong to the town?”

Betty confirmed it was the Dock Lunch, adding that Dubeau was correct in her questioning but that conversations were happening between the town and the property owner on the matter.

Coun. Dan La Rose thanked the planners for exploring the parking aspect, but “absolutely disagreed” with the proposal and the project at large.

“It’s a huge downgrade,” said La Rose of the reduction from 110 to 35 spaces. “I just would not want to be the one telling 70 or 80 boaters a day: ‘there is no room’.” 

Additionally, La Rose noted the proposed shuttle bus bringing passengers to the tour boat instead of providing nearby parking, stating there was no other nearby area for a shuttle bus to load. 

“It boils down to the biggest point of: why are we trying to make this harder on everybody? We want to make it hard to park, take parking away, make it harder on our boats, take less tourists off our Main Street,” said La Rose.

“To me, we should’ve stopped this in the beginning and went with a different plan,” La Rose added. “Without the fact that there’s two pieces of property down there that we don’t own, and none of this – before it was ever… to be passed – would have a cost.” 

La Rose noted that the small community would struggle to find up to $10 million for the 15-year project, and would be better suited through minor upgrades and some cosmetics.

Coun. Debbie Levy shared her agreement with La Rose.

A member of the public asking for clarification on parking prompted Betty to explain that less than a quarter per cent (or under 28) of spots were recorded as used on a typical day; Mayor Doug Leroux who lives in the area confirmed the counts.

Council directed staff to schedule a statutory public meeting for an official plan amendment to adopt the secondary plan and master plan, and receive feedback on the revised designs. 

Information on the presentation can be found on the Town Dock Secondary Plan and Master Plan Survey page of the Connect Penetanguishene website.

The staff report with further information on the Sajecki Planning draft documents can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

This item reprinted with permission from MidlandToday.ca, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario