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COLUMN: Midland election comes down to vote over MBL's future

Will Midland residents rue the day they voted on the future of Midland Bay Landing? columnist asks, noting many of those pushing for the current plan already live on the water

Depending on how the Midland election hand is dealt this coming Monday, town residents might one day look back with regret.

This election has come down to one defining issue: The future of Midland Bay Landing.

And when you look at the current MBL plan, it really feels like some sort of bad joke when one contemplates the actual amount of greenspace on offer.

A paltry 25% is intended to quench the public’s thirst for a bigger slice of land overlooking majestic Georgian Bay.

And that figure includes a long concrete sidewalk (or ‘promenade’ in Midland Bay Landing Development Board speak), what looks like a parkette and, for some unknown reason, a large chunk of greenspace actually located behind the potential condo and commercial development.

One can almost imagine a father saying to his family on a hot summer day, "Hey, let's go have a picnic near the water.. Well, we won't be able to see the water kids, but, I think you'll be impressed by the cool architecture employed to create that fine-looking condo building."

And while the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation board has recently taken out full-page ads promoting the plan and even has a release on the town's official website, it’s important to note that like other town boards and committees, this particular board features plenty of folks who don’t actually call Midland home.

However, on the home front, some of the biggest promoters of the current plan do live here, albeit with great views of Georgian Bay. They include people who retired here from away like waterfront resident and board chair Bill Kernohan, waterfront resident and incumbent mayoral candidate Stewart Strathearn and a few other waterfront residents who regularly comment about how wonderful the current plan is on social media (see MidlandToday's Facebook page).

But to prove their point even further that this is really what the people want, they often point to the amount of public discourse that happened nearly a decade ago that went into hammering out the current plan.

That’s all well and good, but what they’re not mentioning is that a fair number of those who attended these sessions are retirees already living on the water (like former mayor Gord McKay). And from my understanding, those attending these sessions were never given the option of recommending a large chunk of park space as part of the plan.

The plan's proponents also point to the town's need to raise its tax base. Have they failed to notice all the other development now taking place throughout the town that will undoubtedly raise the tax base?

As well, if you already live on the shores of Georgian Bay, your desire to create a stunning waterfront everyone can enjoy might not be as strong.

As for context of what Midland could do, just take a gander at neighbouring Penetanguishene's impressive waterfront or hop in the car and travel further down Highway 12 to Orillia. That city's amazing waterfront includes two large parks to ensure abundant community access. Even the growing behemoth that is Barrie has its high-rise condos ensconced on the other side of the road from Lake Simcoe.

And if the powers that be are really stuck on throwing highend condos into that area, wouldn’t it make more sense to place them on the other side of Bayshore Drive. I realize that is also a park, but the town earlier set about destroying that bit of greenspace by allowing Chigamik to build there during the previous council term.

The pluses to throwing the housing on the other side far outweigh any negatives.

As an example, Midland council gets more tax revenue and the people moving here from out-of-town (as will undoubtedly occur) get a great view of Georgian Bay. And there's a beautiful, vibrant park for everyone to enjoy.

While several candidates, including mayoral candidate Bill Gordon, deputy mayor hopeful Jack Contin and councillor contenders Jamie-Lee Ball, Roberta Bald, Eric ‘Howie’ Major, Bill Meridis, Beth Prost and Frank Vatalaro, have come out supporting the concept of pausing any decision before more concrete is poured, many others have not.

In fact, one candidate and former councillor, who’s not on the aforementioned list, once opined that he’ll be able to sleep better once Midland stops being the county’s highest-taxed municipality.

While his point at the time centred around gaining a larger tax base by handing off the Midland Bay Landing site to a developer, one wonders how well Midland residents will sleep years from now when they realize they squandered the one chance to create a true Georgian Bay gem for themselves and their children.

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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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