The board overseeing a major potential Midland development is going on the offensive.
Bill Kernohan, Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation (MBLDC) chair, said the move to publish a two-page advertisement in the form of a “media release” in a local newspaper was necessary to ensure residents “have the facts” when it comes to the large-scale waterfront project, which has created controversy in town and become a central issue in the local municipal election campaign.
“As the introduction in the media release states, there seems to be many questions being asked and discussed on social media by many, so MBLDC wanted to ensure the public had the facts about MBL (Midland Bay Landing),” said Kernohan, who pointed out the town sent out the release on the board’s behalf.
“The release was made by MBLDC and not the town,” Kernohan told MidlandToday when asked why it was emailed from a town account and appears on the town's website.
“Social media contains various misconceptions about MBL that have been repeated by many folks which is why the media release was done,” he said. “The newspaper advertisement in The Mirror is intended as a means to reach people who don't use social media.”
Kernohan declined to say how much the two-page newspaper ad cost.
However, Kernohan went on to point out that the process and timetable for selecting a developer for MBL has been publicly known for some time and that the development board has adhered to that schedule and continued to issue releases every step of the way.
And while MidlandToday has published stories about the process throughout, Kernohan noted that a number of releases have been issued this year dealing with everything from the procurement process to council’s approval of a developer in July, which led to the execution of a letter of intent with Georgian Communities that started a 120-day exclusivity period.
But the move to spend public funds on the ad doesn't sit well with everyone, especially Coun. Bill Gordon, who is running for mayor and supports pausing the project to determine if it serves the best interests of the town and its residents.
Gordon is adamant that the town needs to revisit the 10-year-old plan for Midland Bay Landing to better reflect current public space desires.
“I am supportive of responsible development at Midland Bay Landing, however, it has been 10 years since it has received public input, bringing it out for review would allow us to ensure that it meets the needs of our present-day community,” Gordon said.
“For example, putting public use/mixed-use development into phase one ahead of the residential development might be one consideration.”
Gordon said the notion widely held by fellow mayoral candidate Stewart Strathearn and most of the outgoing council is that those consultations done a decade ago satisfy that requirement.
“There is no appetite to change course or revisit the plan despite the community-wide desire to do so following the pandemic and a renewed appreciation for public outdoor spaces,” Gordon added.
Gordon said the “press release” contains "inaccuracies" and is viewed by many as an attempt to cool the desire to “pause and rethink” the decade-old plan that promotes selling phase one (35%) of the town-owned 40 acre parcel of Georgian Bay waterfront early in the new term of council.
“That pause and rethink stance is being supported by several candidates, including myself. If a minimum of five members of council support the pause, then the sale will not happen and the plans will go back to the community for review and potential change.
“This is a very real potential and it seems that this press release was meant to change some hearts and minds with only days before online voting begins.”
According to Gordon, residents have pondered the revelations in the document and had to decide whether they make them more in support of selling the land for waterfront housing, or if they remain opposed to the plan and want a new council to pause the sale and revisit the plan with the community before making an "irreversible decision."
Gordon said the release inaccuracies and exaggerated claims and has left some residents worried about taking a position on the phase one development one way or another.
“They are concerned that the press release presents numbers that seem grossly inflated and appear to be using fear to drive residents (and candidates) towards a desired outcome,” he said.
“Presenting fiction as fact is very concerning to people who know how to distinguish between the two.”