The waterfront sidewalk in Sidney could extend onto the breakwater of the Port Sidney Marina after the municipality and the operator reached a lease agreement in principle (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney councillor calls for more public access to waterfront

Coun. Sara Duncan made the comment as municipality and marine operator

A Sidney councillor is calling on the private company that owns Port Sidney Marina to improve public access.

“Right now, we have carved off a piece of our waterfront and given it over to only people, who can pay enough to be there, and who are explicitly not people who live here,” said Coun. Sara Duncan. “They come in from somewhere else. So anything we can do to actually allow local people and people of [lesser] means to be able access the waterfront again without having to tow their kayak into the environmentally sensitive area would be very welcome.”

Duncan made these comments as Sidney councillors unanimously approved a lease agreement in principle with Port Sidney Marina Inc. subject to final comments on three community amenity contributions under consideration: space for a passenger-ferry service; the possible extension of Sidney’s waterfront walkway on top of the marina’s breakwater; and public boat launch facilities.

RELATED: Passenger-only ferry plan proposed for Gulf Islands and Sidney

But if the company has offered feedback on the first two items, Sidney has not heard much about the third item, said Andrew Hicik, director of corporate services, whose report to council points out that “none” of the amenities “can be guaranteed at this time.”

Chief administrative officer Randy Humble later acknowledged this aspect but added that the company has been seriously looking at these issues. Sidney, he said, has been taking the company at its word.

This said, council also needs to signal its intentions, as some of the elements under discussion have cost implications, including the extension of the public walkway, said Humble.

The public had heard earlier that Sidney would have to pay for the extension, assuming that the operator could re-engineer the breakwater.

Port Sidney Marina is located on two separate parcels: a foreshore portion owned by the Town of Sidney with the rest located on a Crown water lot leased by the town from the province, then sub-leased to Port Sidney Marina Inc., which purchased the marina in 2016.

According to a staff report, the sublease will generate about $10,000 per year for Sidney thanks to the 10 per cent markup paid by the operator on Sidney’s lease with the provincial government. Sidney also expects yet-to-be-determined higher property tax revenues from the pending improvements. Last year, the municipality received $62,000 in tax revenues.

Councillors overall praised the arrangement which sees Sidney act as a ‘middle-man’ between the provincial government and the private company.

Coun. Chad Rintoul said the agreement gives the municipality control which it would otherwise lack.

“Walking away from what is a jewel on our waterfront would be potentially problematic,” he said.

Duncan agreed with this argument while urging improvements.


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