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Future of Port Dover core under review

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The appearance and character of Port Dover 50 years from now and beyond is taking shape at Norfolk council.

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Deliberations on a “secondary plan” for Norfolk County’s fastest-growing community – population 6,000 – could shape the future development of Port Dover’s downtown core.

Does the county allow commercial and retail development to proceed north up Main Street? Or will future growth be steered in the direction of St. Patrick Street to the east or St. George Street to the west?

“I don’t like seeing it (the downtown) pushed up Main Street,” Vittoria Coun. Chris VanPaassen told Norfolk council on Oct. 6.

“You’d rather have a big square. Do you want to go from St. George Street toward the lakeside? Or do you want to go the other way toward the (Lynn) River side? And maybe have some wording in there that it may take time to get there, but that’s what planning is about.”

Consultants with the Planning Partnership of Toronto prepared the 400-page draft document in consultation with the community.

VanPaassen and Mayor Kristal Chopp expressed disappointment that the draft document doesn’t recommend how the core should expand to accommodate the estimated 25,000 people who could call Port Dover home once the town’s development potential is exhausted.

The criticism seemed to catch consultant Ron Palmer off guard. He said there is not much demand at the moment for new growth in the core, adding it may be premature to carve a direction in stone. Depending on what happens, Palmer said the best strategy might be one that allows growth east, west and north of the central business district. He added it would be a big step at this stage to earmark areas in the core for growth when the nature of that growth is unknown.

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“This goes to people’s property, and it changes the context through which people view their property,” Palmer said. “That’s a fairly significant change. We’re happy to have a conversation about that.”

Norfolk council commissioned the secondary plan last year in response to condo-tower proposals that promise to cut Port Dover off from its waterfront.

Representatives of the Port Dover Waterfront Preservation Association spoke to council about their desire to see public access to the waterfront through walking trails and the like entrenched as a priority in the secondary plan, which is like a mini-official plan specific to Port Dover.

Others taking an interest in the process include the Port Dover Lions Club, owner of the 20-acre Silver Lake Park on St. Patrick Street.

Speaking on behalf of the Lions on Oct. 6 was recently-installed president Sue Finnie. She told council the occasion of a secondary plan provides a great opportunity to set a direction for Silver Lake Park into the future.

“The Lions Club would like to keep the park as a park,” Finnie said, adding the greenspace and associated facilities attract an estimated 100,000 visitors a year.

The Lions’ wish list includes:

  • Rezoning lots on St. Patrick Street adjacent to the greenspace as parkland-open space. The lots are currently zoned residential.
  • Allowing sections of the Lions property to re-develop as seniors housing and a facility for long-term care.
  • Allowing the continued use of the property for small-scale commercial purposes such as the weekly Saturday market.
  • Allowing for the possible development of an education and environmental interpretive centre.
  • Formalizing current uses such as concerts, fireworks, movie nights, car shows, camping and the like.

Norfolk council referred the draft document back to the consultants and staff for further review. A revised draft document will come to council at a later date during another public meeting under the Planning Act, at which time it could be adopted and sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for final approval.

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