Parking main focus of Penetanguishene dock public meeting

·4 min read

Dulled pitchforks and doused torches resulted from a quelled public meeting of residents in opposition to the Penetanguishene Town Dock renovation project, as the project lead laid many facts before those who showed up in opposition.

Penetanguishene began looking at the town dock as a “future study area” in 2018, and began a town dock secondary plan and master plan after funding from the County of Simcoe’s Economic Development Program in 2019. Since then, a projected 15-year multi-million dollar overhaul of the dock was undertaken, to transform the waterfront access into an upgraded gateway for residents and tourists.

Roughly 20 residents showed up to a public meeting and presentation from Sajecki Planning Inc., given by partner and co-founder David Sajecki, during a recent meeting of Penetanguishene council. Information to date was provided through a power-point presentation, with large focus laid on the parking aspect.

“A significant amount of the site, initially, was turned over to greenspace; it has since become more of an urbanscape space, and the parking has evolved as we’ve heard comments from residents as well as from council,” stated Sajecki, pointing to one of the initial master plan concept options.

In the previous council meeting, parking was a main concern from Coun. Dan La Rose and Debbie Levy. Further concerns had been shared by residents during an open house in early September.

An 11-page report from staff included a parking design update and study, verifying 89 parking spaces in the formal parking area with an unknown number in the informal launch parking area. Options provided by design engineering firm Wood through Sajecki offered either 59-to-79 spaces or 71-to-91 spaces as a proposed design.

Following the presentation, residents were able to voice their concerns with all sharing the same refrain: The current town dock might be visibly unpleasant, but it is functionally thriving.

Town resident Steven Graham, a former tourism coordinator, called the parking a “dinosaur ballet” during busy launch days, and praised the current visual aesthetics of the waterfront community while giving disdain to an early concept for a hotel in the design; Sajecki later clarified that exploration of a hotel was mandatory to the planning process, but quickly dismissed by the firm as a viable option.

Ron Dalton claimed that Tobermory had lost its cruise boat, the Georgian Legacy now in Penetanguishene, once parking alternatives had been introduced; Sajecki informed the attendees that he had spoken to the operator of Georgian Legacy and was told access to the boat and shuttle options in Tobermory were not a concern regarding the operations of a tour boat.

Other concerns of opposition were raised, from the smell of the nearby sewage treatment plant to the impact parking would have for snowmobilers in winter.

Mayor Doug Leroux realized that if every attendee spoke their lengthy comments in opposition the meeting would be there much longer, and asked opponents to register their names and addresses with the planning department.

Sajecki was given the last word to speak regarding the project.

“We’re looking for ways to improve that area,” Sajecki added. “I don’t think the plan is quite there.

“We have spoken with the snowmobiling community; and under option two within the winter when trailer spaces are not being used, there’s 91 parking spaces that are identified in the plan – that’s actually more than the formalized parking spaces that are there right now. It does not include the boat launch.

“What I want to say more than anything is that: We still hear you, and the plan is still developing. We’re not trying to take the boat launch away from that site within the plan,” Sajecki explained.

For next steps, comments from the public meeting as well as the open house would be considered by the technical advisory committee and staff with the intent to bring forward a follow up report to council by the end of 2022.

Frequent information on the Town Dock Secondary Plan and Master Plan is available on the Connect Penetanguishene website.

The Sajecki power-point presentation, parking design update staff report, town dock secondary plan and master plan, planning justification report, and official plan amendment can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca