Concerns are being raised about two upcoming public meetings related to Midland Bay Landing.
While some Midland residents wonder how they’ll be able to view the presentations and voice their opinions about the waterfront plan if they’re away, others feel strongly that the town should host the meetings with the MBLDC board invited to participate.
But Midland Mayor Bill Gordon says those concerns are unwarranted.
“The MBLDC is ‘hosting’ the meetings because we are inside a real estate transaction that is entirely their wheelhouse,” Gordon said. “The two public meetings have been injected into the LOI (letter of intent) process as a result of the election.”
The issue of what to do with Midland Bay Landing loomed large in last fall's municipal election with many of those elected, including incoming Gordon and Deputy Mayor Jack Contin, favouring a pause to give residents time to learn more about the plan and offer their critiques.
During a recent meeting, MBLDC board members discussed their decision to hold two public meetings on February 4 and 11, a departure from the board’s earlier position that any such meetings would take place after the agreement with Georgian Communities was officially signed by all parties.
Chair Bill Kernohan said the move follows Midland’s decision to elect both Gordon and Contin, who campaigned on the concept of a “pause and rethink” when it comes to the development.
“We need to bring these people (residents) up to date,” Kernohan said, noting the first session will “not really be much of a conversation, but more education.”
Gordon said the first meeting slated will allow Kernohan and Georgian Communities an opportunity to “extoll the virtues of the current plan.”
The second one, a week later, will focus on listening to public input and suggestions about the plan.
Gordon said the sessions are “not merely lip service and the output of the second meeting will influence council and may even result in compromises to the plan that our developer can embrace."
As well, Gordon noted advertisements for the meeting have been placed in a local newspaper to reach the “non-online crowd.”
And for those worried they won’t be able to attend, Gordon said the first meeting will be recorded and uploaded to the town’s Youtube channel.
“The second meeting (round tables with a facilitator) won't be recorded due to its format, however we will invite written submission from residents who may not be able to attend in person.”
The meetings might also alleviate public concerns about the current plan, something addressed by a MidlandToday columnist prior to the election who wrote: “A paltry 25% is intended to quench the public’s thirst for a bigger slice of land overlooking majestic Georgian Bay.”
Gordon said residents concerned about the current plan should ensure they attend or watch the February 4 online presentation so it can help them submit their ideas and suggestions.
“You asked for these meetings before council considers a sale and moving forward, and we are delivering,” he said, noting the window for written submissions closes on February 12 at 4 p.m.
"I wish it could be longer but the board feels that the submission window is enough since they hope that submissions will begin after the 4th.
"There needs to be time to collate the data and review it with Georgian as to what, if any, could be integrated into the plan (phases one or two) before the deal comes to council for a decision early March. I hope we get a good turnout, and that people will believe that the decision hasn’t been made yet and the output from the Feb 11th meeting and submissions received throughout that week will influence the decision of council."
Gordon said that as always, he's looking to find compromises that offer a balance between meeting financial pressures on the town and the "very real desire to have an attractive, accessible, and multi-use park inspired waterfront for residents and visitors alike."
"I’m counting on our residents to come and share their ideas and help suggest compromises once they learn about the current plan, the alternatives such as doing nothing or remediating and developing on our own and what kind of vision Georgian Communities will share about how they can help us achieve these goals and aspirations. This is a very big deal for Midland."