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Mayor, deputy mayor touting Midland Bay Landing plan 2.0

'Fair, balanced, reasonable and responsible' plan would feature 50-50 split between development/public realm land while allowing public access to entire waterfront
2020-07-29 ap
Mayor hopes public likes new Midland Bay Landing plan. Andrew Philips/MidlandToday

Just don’t call it 'son of Midland Bay Landing'.

At Wednesday's Midland council meeting, Mayor Bill Gordon and Deputy Mayor Jack Contin are presenting a new proposal that will return the spotlight to an area of Midland that’s created a fair bit of ink in stories, letters to the editor and columns in recent years.

In fact, the future of Midland Bay Landing loomed large in last fall’s municipal election when a number of candidates, who favoured moving ahead with the former development plan that featured 25% of public space, weren’t elected.

Gordon and Contin, who supported ‘pausing and rethinking’ that plan, are now offering one that would see the west half of Midland Bay Landing put back on the block for an RFP (request for proposals).

“I’m excited about the possibilities and at reversing the development phases previously contemplated and expanding the public ownership from 25% to 50%,” Gordon said.

“In my opinion, this is fair, balanced, reasonable and responsible. I look forward to community input on both the RFP results for the west half and what concepts we can come up with for the east half.”

Gordon told MidlandToday that while the move would allow development on 20 acres of land while the other half would be the subject of a citizen-led steering committee “with the hopes of planning for a beautiful multi-use recreational space.”

Gordon said this is a responsible compromise on land use that he hopes will receive both council and community support.

“It strikes a balance between real economic development needs and the desire to keep waterfront for recreational use by residents and visitors alike,” Gordon said. “The official plan already defines that the entire shoreline remains public realm so whatever proposals we get for the west 20 acres will need to factor that in somehow.”

Gordon said he and Contin have carefully crafted this plan with staff support so “we can work collaboratively and meet the needs of the Town and the ‘town.’” 

Gordon also noted that this RFP process would be managed “in-house rather than through the now parked” Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation.

“Had they not resigned in protest, there may have been a place for the already established board in the process, but there is likely no appetite to reconstitute the board when viable alternatives exist.”

Gordon said he and Contin plan to look for support in helping to sell this compromise as a best land use and reasonable outcome that will meet the town’s growth and financial needs while also preserving Georgian Bay waterfront for public access and enjoyment.

Under the move, which will be brought before council Wednesday, an RFP would be issued for the sale and development of the west side. It would also require approval of $50,000 to retain legal counsel for the RFP development and implementation and an additional $50,000 to retain professional planning support to review RFP submissions. Funding would come from the Midland Bay Landing Reserve Fund.

Gordon said the idea of shopping the west side rather than the east is primarily because it is closest to the downtown core and is also the most heavily contaminated of the two sides and, therefore, is easier to build on. As well, he noted the west side has deep-water frontage for cruise-ship docking.

“The east side has the best views, the least contaminants and would lend itself to remediation and recreational development,” Gordon said.

“I’ve had several developers approach me about wanting to supply ideas for the site since it became available again. It seems prudent to get part of this land back into RFP.”

Gordon said the west side has attracted the most interest from developers and “the concept of a 50/50 split was just Jack and I trying to find a compromise that would satisfy our pledge to keep waterfront for public use and the very real need for economic stimulus.”

Gordon said RFPs from interested developers for the west 20 acres would be brought to the community for input as they had planned to do with the last plan and development proposal before the develop walked away. With the support the community, the town could then enter into a letter of intent with the favoured developer.

“The visioning exercise for the east 20 acres could begin once we have gotten through the RFP process,” Gordon said, noting the concept would not affect the need to maintain 1,100 meters of continuous waterfront, extending back 100 feet from water’s edge on both sides.

“The community can work with us on ideas for the 20 acres, we can get estimates on remediation to effect those changes, search for funding sources and then look to putting those plans into action once we’ve decided on an outcome for the west half that is already under an official plan that allows for mixed uses and institutional.”


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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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