Beachfront apartments in Port Burwell are going ahead despite council disapproval

Whether Port Burwell residents are for it or against it, including local politicians, plans for beachfront apartments have been given the go-ahead by the regional development watchdog.

The 13-unit complex was rejected by a 4-1 vote in January by Bayham Council, and instead recently received provisional approval by the Ontario Land Court.

The council rejected Barry Wade Homes Inc.’s proposal. For several reasons, most notably its proximity to the public beach.

Some residents are concerned about the location of the proposed development.

Tracy Farmer, who lives nearby, said Wednesday that building a 13-unit condominium in front of the beach would mean more people and traffic.

“A lot of people live here because it’s not Port Stanley, it’s quiet,” she said of the beach town about an hour’s drive southeast of London. She also worries that the units will be rented out or become Airbnbs.

Resident Christina Crump likened the construction of townhomes at the proposed site to building a hotel in the middle of a ski slope in Whistler, British Columbia.

“You have a beautiful natural resource that is being used and enjoyed… Why destroy it?” She said.

Crump also shared Farmer’s concerns that the condos would become investment properties, perhaps “changing the nature of the quiet family beach in (Port Burwell).”

Developer Barry Wade, who unsuccessfully ran in the last municipal election, said he believes some of the opposition to the development stems from “personal biases.”

He added: “Thank God that (the court) exists to settle these matters.” “It was a sound proposal, and we were very confident in our position on it.”

At the January council meeting where the plan was rejected, reasons ranged from number of units (density), parking issues, and public beach protection.

William Ball, a registered professional planner and planning consultant for Bayham who oversaw the planning reports submitted to Bayham Council, was called by Barry Wade at the court hearing, and felt the development’s appeal for 13 units, combined with the location of the development, was a practical fit for the community.

“The applicant has addressed all safety issues in relation to flooding and subsidence,” Paul said. “They have addressed the number of units by reducing them, which, in my opinion, is a reasonable fit for this location in the municipality.”

Dan Froese, the only council member to vote in favor of the project, said he supports businesses trying to grow the municipality and make it a better place.

Mayor Ed Kitchabaugh said he expected the municipality to abide by the ruling. “The community as a whole may have concerns, but I mean, ultimately,” he said, the court issued its ruling.

The court will give its final approval for the development once amendments to the community’s official plan and zoning bylaws are complete.

Wade hopes to begin construction within about a year.

Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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