Frequently Asked Questions about the Beacon Wharf Project
- Q1. Why can’t the current wharf and buildings stay in place with ongoing investment in wharf repairs?
- Q2. Why did the Committee only advance two options for consideration?
- Q3. Why weren’t other developers given the opportunity to put forward a proposal?
- Q4. Would the current businesses on Beacon Wharf need to close if the wharf was replaced?
- Q5. Would the Town need to borrow money to cover the cost of removing the wharf?
- Q6. Will people outside of Sidney who fill out the survey decide whether or not community members pay for a new wharf?
Town of Sidney Staff and Council recognize that Beacon Wharf and its quaint buildings are iconic and well-loved by community members and visitors alike. Since the Town took over ownership of the wharf from the federal government in 2006, ongoing investments have been made to keep the wharf as is, until a long-term decision is made with community input.
In 2012, the Town invested approximately $300,000 in repairs, followed by another investment of approximately $100,000 in 2018. After the first round of repairs, vehicles were no longer allowed to drive on the wharf, and large vessels were prohibited from docking due to structural safety concerns. These investments and restrictions could not stop the aging process of the wood structure. Soon, the wharf will reach the end of its life and need to be removed.
A new wharf would cost millions to construct. An investment of this scale would need to be designed for the next 50 years, and consider rising sea levels. Any buildings on the wharf would also need to meet current building codes. Since ongoing repairs are no longer a viable way of extending the life of the current wharf, significant future changes are unavoidable.
An engineering study conducted in 2019 by SNC Lavalin analyzed options for a fixed wharf at the end of Beacon Avenue, built on pilings like the current structure, or on a rock rubble mound. The main challenge with these fixed wharf options is rising sea levels. A fixed wharf with year-round-use buildings would need to be built to accommodate rising sea levels over the next 50 years. This would result in a wharf that is 2.5 metres higher than the end of Beacon Avenue, creating a prominent rise at the end of the street that blocks views of the ocean and impedes passage from one side of Beacon to the other. Mooring options for boats would also be challenging. For this reason, fixed wharf options were rejected by the committee.
Once the Committee arrived at the conclusion that a fixed wharf replacement was not appropriate, a floating option was the only alternative left. The other option advanced for consideration is to not replace the wharf at the end of its life, but to remove it and improve the waterfront and the connections to the sea. The two options advanced for consideration by the Beacon Wharf Select Committee were the only options that were reasonably affordable and did not significantly obstruct ocean views.
If survey feedback suggests that a fixed wharf option is favoured by community members, it can be reconsidered. Alternatively, if public feedback suggests that a floating wharf is desirable but not with a public-private partnership, this can be considered, acknowledging that it may cost considerably more.
In 2009, the Town put forward a Request for Proposals for a public-private partnership at Beacon Wharf. This approach was recognized as a potential way to build a new wharf once the current wharf reaches the end of its lifespan, reducing costs to taxpayers. Only Sidney Waterfront Partnership expressed interest at that time and it is unlikely that a new Request for Proposals would solicit further bids. Sidney Waterfront Partnership already owns a piece of infrastructure that has been deemed viable for use as a floating wharf, if refurbished. The company has a successful history working with the Town on major projects that include public amenities, such as an expanded Beacon Park, which serves as a prominent community gathering place. Having such a partner, with a vested interest in the outcome, would reduce uncertainty around this type of venture.
The current businesses on Beacon Wharf will need to relocate when the current wharf reaches the end of its lifespan. If a new wharf is constructed in its place with commercial space, any year-round structure on the new wharf would need to meet current building codes and bylaws, while also paying fair market value for rent.
The current businesses have been on short-term leases for many years now, and month-to-month since the most recent two-year term expired in recognition of the limited lifespan of the wharf.
It is unlikely that large borrowing would be needed to remove the wharf and make waterfront improvements in its place. If the selected option is to not replace the wharf, there would be additional public engagement around potential improvement options, along with design concepts and associated costs. There would also be a formal borrowing approval process, if a significant amount of borrowing is necessary.
Will people outside of Sidney who fill out the survey decide whether or not community members pay for a new wharf?
Non-residents cannot commit Sidney taxpayers to pay for a Beacon Wharf replacement option that involves borrowing money.
Council is in the early stages of reviewing options for the wharf, and the survey responses are one way Council will get an initial sense of how the public feels about these different options. Understanding that many regular visitors to Sidney may also have strong opinions about the waterfront, survey input was not limited to community members and property owners. This is not a formal, binding referendum, or even an informal vote; it is simply a vital opportunity for people to provide their feedback to Council.
If Council ultimately chooses an option for the wharf that requires the Town to borrow money, there would be a formal process seeking public approval, which would be limited to Sidney residents and property owners only.