John Prince in Concert – September

John Prince and the End of the Road band are the featured performers for the third concert in this year’s music series sponsored by the Innisfil Arts Council (IACHC.ca) with the cooperation of Innisfil Live Music and Innisfil Public Library. The concert takes place on Monday, September 23, 7:30 pm. at Lakeshore branch, Innisfil Public Library There is still time to get tickets – order online or enquire at the Newfie Corner, 4171 Thornton Crossing Plaza, Unit 4. Don’t be disappointed!

John Prince and the End of the Road perform a diverse mix of traditional, maritime, folk and blue grass music. It promises to be a rousing and entertaining evening, and  a highlight of the year.

This trio of extremely talented musicians has been entertaining enthusiastic audiences throughout Ontario and the Maritimes for many years both individually and as former members of John Prince & A Piece of the Rock. The new project, End of the Road provides the perfect stage to showcase their talents as they perform old favorites and a large and growing repertoire of original compositions written by John Prince. Their strong vocal harmonies and lyrical melodies present a memorable musical experience. See you there!

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Reflections on the Park

The public Open House to present concepts for Innisfil Beach Park Master Plan was well attended this week. Residents had an opportunity to review maps, and contribute their ideas for amenities and layout.

There are a number of positive ideas. In principle, I like the idea of more ‘park’ and less ‘parking’ within the boundaries of the park. The big question is where could it be relocated? Ample handicap parking should still be available. I’d love to see a local pedicab service that could carry visitors (and residents) to the park and also take them to local restaurants, pubs, shops and possibly town events and exhibits a short distance away. It could be a popular distinguishing feature and a source of part-time summer employment.

The idea of widening the beach portions adjacent to the water and adding a boardwalk also sounds positive. But if so, would that mean removal of trees closer to the water? Would they be replaced further into the park?

As an amateur gardener, I like the idea of adding more floral displays, especially around the entrance. I also think an attractive floral display somewhere near the edges and perhaps situated close to alternate parking could be designed as a big attraction for wedding party photography year round. (Or if not, located somewhere else in town – at a road-end?)

In other areas, plantings can be informative and instructive, demonstrating the ornamental use of native plants, plants that support pollinators, and plants that attract birds, for instance.

Again, in principle, I think it’s useful to consider adding new activities and rental options within reason. I don’t see the need for a splash pad since the lake is shallow along the shore. This feature would be better suited to town sites that are more distant from the lake and within walking distance of neighbourhood children.

Likewise, moving the boat launch to a road-end location is an idea worth considering. And adding a space to sit and watch the boats going in and out would be an attraction in itself.

Overall, my greatest concern is that the plan so far tries to be all things to all people. The vision of four activity areas is logical but perhaps too ambitious. My impression is that there is too much focus on commercialization. The town is eager to create alternate sources of revenue but may end up spoiling the character that makes Innisfil Beach Park so appealing. Too many corporations have lost their way lately by striving exclusively for more revenue, forgetting that it depends entirely on offering real value. My impression is that many ‘festivals’ and exhibitions have become over-priced “sales pitches in a party dress” that all look the same. This plan seems to be veering in that direction.

Most alarming is the ‘Gateway’ concept of encroaching on the park with commercial developments:

“Explore a range of potential built forms of private commercial, residential, and community space uses on both sides of Innisfil Beach Road … Staff will examine the possible sale of public lands and leasing models on public lands for private enterprise within and adjacent to the park …”

This is just wrong. I see the current landscaped approach to the park east of the 25th Sideroad as welcoming visitors into ‘our neighborhood’ contrasting with the hectic urban environment they left. It could be made spectacular with more landscaped displays and maybe some public art. Obstructing and cluttering it up with commercial and retail just spoils the appeal. Imagine if the edge of Toronto’s High Park was surrendered to commercial development to better ‘transition’ to ‘downtown commercial’. Imagine if the quiet residences on Toronto Islands were demolished for commercial development. How would that enhance visitors’ experience?

I don’t understand the drive for retailing around the park. Visitors cart everything they need – toys, chairs, shades, barbecues and loads of traditional / favourite foods with them. What is it that visitors are so eager to buy? We have been waiting for 10 years for the designated downtown commercial strip to take shape. It’s not happening and speculators are sitting on numerous empty lots. Why would we want to fragment things even further by proposing development adjacent to the park?

And why would we even consider new residential development on current public land so that a developer could use a public park as a sales feature for private profit? We will have to see what emerges from the public consultations and makes it into a final draft plan.

Pop-Ups & Turnovers

On a recent stroll through Innisfil Beach Park I noticed a sign promoting “Pop-Up Shops on the Beach”. I had also seen a brief article in the newspaper about this concept, so I decided to look into it a little further.

After some searching I found a page on the Town website, with this enthusiastic description:

“Town of Innisfil is excited to welcome Pop-Up Shops to Innisfil Beach Park! Businesses and vendors of all shapes and sizes are welcome to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity to sell at one of the most popular summer destinations in the region.”

The website listed three requirements to participate:

  • An approved Town of Innisfil permit (*fee applies)
  • Insurance based on business/vendor
  • Business License (if required)

I have previously mulled over the idea of starting some sort of ‘social enterprise’ to help finance local community groups, so I thought I would gather more information.

First, would I need a business license? It sounded like there may be exceptions. After more searching (a search for ‘licenses’ doesn’t return any results on the Town website) I came across a page labeled “Business Licenses” which displayed contact information and office hours but did not identify the department.

There was another link on the page, “A – Z services”. I clicked on it and got this message: “It looks like the link pointing here was faulty. Try searching?”

Never mind. There was a notation that read, “Many resources for business owners – including licensing – can be found through our Business Portal.”

OK, I clicked on that link. The Business Portal leads to a page labeled, “Innisfil Accelerates” with the bold banner announcing, “Innisfil Invests in the Future”. This page displays two links: ‘Who We Are’ and ‘Programs’.

Who We Are says “Our mission is about finding solutions – rather than putting up barriers, and as an entrepreneur, you will always feel like you’re in the right hands with Innisfil Invests In You. We understand how you think about your business, and our primary goal is to help you succeed and push forward.” A ‘get connected’ button leads to an online email sign-up.

The ‘Programs’ page lists two: Women’s Entrepreneurial Digital Marketing Bootcamp; and Innisfil Accelerates: Ryerson Small Business Accelerator.

Sigh. Not too helpful. I went back to the Pop-Ups on the Beach page. The information there is provided by ‘Active Innisfil’, which apparently comes under the purview of the Parks & Recreation Dept. There is no information about the permit fee or licensing. Possibly it varies with the type of Pop-up being proposed. The newspaper mentioned that $5 million in liability insurance is required. So any small local entrepreneur contemplating a pop-up at the beach has the sole option of a phone or email enquiry with multiple departments for the most basic of information about permissions and costs.

The web page did have a list of Pop-Up restrictions and requirements though: There are three park locations available subject to availability; no food retailing is permitted; tents must be weighted down “but not steaked”. Possibly because of the food restriction? I haven’t seen a Pop-up Shop at the beach. I don’t expect to.

The Beach Park Project

The Town of Innisfil is in the midst of examining a Master Plan for Innisfil Beach Park and is looking for opinions and ideas from residents about how to proceed. I would encourage local readers to have a look at the report for themselves and participate in an online survey to help guide the process. An initial public ‘Open House’ was held at Innisfil Beach Park to collect public impressions on July 12. I am quoting some selected key passages from the report here. The full report contains much more detail:

“The draft vision and principles outlined in this report have been prepared to guide the development of design alternatives which will confront persistent challenges in the park, such as vehicular congestion, underutilized park areas, and tensions between local park needs and non-local tourist users.”

“… the range of comments collected to-date has not yet offered a clear vision for the park. Instead, several potential directions have emerged based on what people like, dislike, and want to see. Feedback from locals and non-locals alike has ranged from excitement and satisfaction to frustration and displeasure at the current state of the park.”

The report imagines the park as composed of four distinct activity areas and proposes some changes and improvements in each area:

“The initial vision for each area has been prepared, each descriptively telling a story of how the four areas could look, feel and function to future park patrons. These statements are not provided to be an unvarying vision to guide design alternatives, but intended to convey the sense of opportunity inherent in the visioning process and to suggest some of the formative uses being considered for each area.”

“ … Four Areas are proposed, splitting the park into four quadrants. Each Area is intended to have its own distinct character, yet be connected to each other in a manner that complements surrounding areas and contributes to the identity of the park as a whole”:

  • Gateway
  • Port of Innisfil
  • Beaches
  • Neighbourhood

Here’s a summary of key points about each of these park segments and the proposed uses:

Gateway

Potential Vision:

“Passing 25 Sideroad, leaving the bustle of the Downtown, the scale of development shrinks as a wide promenade leads towards the lake. Along Innisfil Beach Road low-rise terraced balconies interspersed with awnings and residents watching the activity below frame the gateway to the park. Pop up storefronts, kiosks, retail buildings, and mixed use structures may be considered here …”

“Explore a range of potential built forms of private commercial, residential, and community space uses on both sides of Innisfil Beach Road, compatible with and transitioning to neighboring intensified Downtown Commercial area designation uses … Staff will examine the possible sale of public lands and leasing models on public lands for private enterprise within and adjacent to the park, where doing so may benefit the broader vision for the park and the Town”

“…Staff will examine the possible sale of public lands and leasing models on public lands for private enterprise within and adjacent to the park, where doing so may benefit the broader vision for the park and the Town.”

“Recreate Innisfil Beach Road, east of 25 Sideroad, to be a more energetic and pedestrian friendly roadway with more frequent and convenient opportunities to cross to the future Downtown Commercial areas on the south side.”

“Consider a wide range of opportunities for private partnerships, land lease revenues, and POPS (privately operated public spaces) for land within and adjacent the park.”

Potential Gateway Initiatives

  • Ornamental Gardens/Parkettes
  • Plaza/Performance Space
  • Public Art Installations
  • Relocation of Baseball Diamonds
  • Art Summerhouse
  • Bon Secours Creek Buffer Plantings
  • Park Gateway Art Feature
  • Raising Toboggan Hill

Port of Innisfil

Potential Vision:

“The Port of Innisfil Area marks the end of Innisfil Beach Road, where the activity of the storefronts meets the shoreline. Visitors who arrived on foot can stock up the cooler, replace the umbrella that blew away last visit, charge your phone, and mingle until friends arrive and walk up the boardwalk to the Beaches. Information kiosks, shops and kiosks selling summer necessities and renting out equipment, and plenty of seats under shade fill out this Area… On the water a wide, brightly colored floating dock gives the illusion of a second beach over the Lake and let people experience the water in a new way. Over the water, hundreds of pleasure boats arrive each day from around Lake Simcoe, with visitors stopping for food, shopping, major Town events, and to enjoy the night life. A navigable canal could lead directly into the park, bringing lake travelers right into to the action of the Port of Innisfil and closer to the Downtown”.

“The Port of Innisfil shall become the park’s second major gateway, a lake oriented destination designed to receive visitors who arrive by water and draw them into the park and Downtown area. As a key destination in itself and gateway to the park and Downtown Alcona, consideration shall be made for the potential for an iconic signifying landmark visible from the lake and the view shed terminus from Innisfil Beach Road … Key water based destination features, such as a potential marina dock system, canal, and shoreline boardwalk features, should be the focus of this area and connect the Hub to surrounding park Areas.”

Potential Port of Innisfil Initiatives:

  • Canal/Marina Dock System
  • Linear marketplace/plaza feature sandwiched between beach and park roadway
  • Floating dock, replacing the environmentally detrimental concrete dock structure, extends the boardwalk over the Lake
  • Removal of the existing concrete dock and restoration of the south beach
  • Town leased restaurant space with lakefront patio
  • Town leased removable, seasonal retail kiosks;
  • Signifying Landmark for the Port of Innisfil and IBP
  • Relocation of Operations Facility
  • Central boardwalk leading north along the shoreline
  • Information kiosks containing maps, event schedules
  • Shade sails and cooling stations

Beaches

Potential Vision:

The hum of car and truck traffic at the launch is gone, but the Beaches are still the center of activity on hot summer days. Families could arrive at the kiss and ride stop and unload conveniently within a few minute walk from the beach. The sand extends back from the shoreline nearly twice as far as it once did, intersected by a wide multi use path leading north from the Port of Innisfil up to the ‘Residents Beach’ near Roberts Road … A floating dock, wide enough for sun bathers and walkers to share comfortably floats on Lake Simcoe, extending nearly the length of the beach and serves to smooth the water. Boaters pull up to the dock to visit for the afternoon, come downtown for dinner, or to visit one of the many concerts and festivals held at the park over the summer.”

“Over the long-term, parking facilities will be relocated further away from the shoreline including the possibility of entirely relocating public parking areas to outside the park. Convenient vehicular access will continue to be permitted in the long term, but in the form of limited use-specific parking areas, kiss and ride areas, ridesharing and taxi drop off, shuttle, and accessibility parking … Boat access within the park will shift towards a day trip destination rather than departure point for lake travelers throughout the region. The long term viability of launch facilities within the park will be re-examined, up to and including relocation of the launch area to an alternate location(s) not within the park, over the long term … The Road Ends program has been identified as a unique well-suited option to accommodate the current launch needs over the medium and long term.”

“Ease barbecue, picnicking, and beach user congestion in the Beaches Area by expanding and legitimizing those areas. Space freed by removal of parking areas will be used to address congestion associated the park’s most popular recreation uses, accommodate additional supporting facilities … Opportunities to expand the beach amenity without resorting to conversion of natural shoreline to beach shall be explored. This could include deepening the beaches, creating residents only beach areas, and creating offshore attractions and swim protection areas through floating dock/pier designs.”

Potential Beach Initiatives:

  • Parking lot relocation
  • Dock system
  • Kiss and ride facilities on existing asphalt
  • Multi-Use Trail Expansion
  • Shade sails and cooling stations
  • Enforcement Infrastructure
  • Beach expansion
  • Outdoor Gym
  • Washroom/Changing Room
  • Winter Warming Huts
  • Art/Retail Parkette Installations
  • Shoreline and Creek Buffer Restoration

Neighbourhood Area

Potential Vision:

“The Neighborhood Area is a five minute walk away for over six hundred households on the streets surrounding the park the Neighborhood Area is a place oriented towards sustaining our community connections. Community facilities such as gardens, outdoor kitchen space, and picnicking areas would create opportunities for locals to gather, hold events, and share experiences. New paths could lead in and out of the park area, from Alderslea and Lebanon, from Holy Cross and north to Goodfellow Public School, and further north to the entrances of future nature trails. This place would feel like a neighborhood park within a park …”

“Explore a range of potential built forms for private residential and community space north of the Water Treatment Plant 
… Staff will examine the possible sale of public lands for residential use in this area, where doing so may benefit the broader vision for the park and the Town… The Neighborhoods area will consider smaller scale community supportive parking opportunities be retained, with the majority of uses accessible by foot alone to encourage and preserve local use … Existing natural areas are to be expanded, especially around the borders of the area, with native vegetation that can provide cooling shade and habitat to create a buffer between surrounding neighborhoods and to allow wildlife to continue to thrive in the park.”

“A reduction and consolidation of fields for more drop-in style use will be considered … Community facilities, parking, and buffers shall be located and strategies explored to discourage Beaches Area uses from spilling into Neighborhood Area.”

“The plan shall consider expanding existing multi-use trail infrastructure to create a loop system. This loop shall connect the Neighborhood Area.”

Potential Neighbourhood Initiatives:

  • Washroom Renovation
  • Classroom Building Renovation/Outdoor Expansion
  • Food Preparation Area and Oven
  • Vegetation Buffer Plantings
  • Off-Leash Dog Park
  • Community Garden
  • Seedling Greenhouse

What’s Next for this Master Plan?

  • If you’d like to read the full Staff Report, click here: IBPMP_Staff_Report
  • September 1 is the deadline for online survey feedback. Go to http://www.getinvolvedinnisfil.ca to share your thoughts.
  • The Community Open House presentation of park designs and preferred alternative consultation takes place on August 13. Mark your calendars.
  • Report to Council on preferred alternative and consultation overview takes place at the beginning of September. Staff will review costing and phasing considerations.
  • Draft plan is presented to Council in October.
  • Council considers final plan for approval in November.

There’s a lot to consider in these proposals. Some ideas are encouraging, some others possibly concerning. I’m taking some time to reflect on all of this until the next public meeting.

Back Again

Hello again. Some of you may have missed me over the past two months while one web application after another stuttered and failed for me. Among the problems, I couldn’t log in to this blog. I’m afraid my aging computer looked like it had reached the end. That’s the advice I got initially. But my reliable tech applied some ‘geriatric’ care instead and I’m ‘good to go’, for now at least. Until ‘progress’ makes things really obsolete!

I hope to resume my commentary on local developments and issues in the coming weeks.

Commercial Zone Extending to Lake Simcoe

The Town of Innisfil has approved an “interim control” bylaw to prohibit property owners on the south side of Innisfil Beach Road between the 25th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe from building or renovating on their properties for one year.

The Town intends to formally rezone this portion of Innisfil Beach Road as part of the Downtown Commercial Area. The Town anticipates a gradual transition over time. As current residents sell their properties, new commercial developments may likely take the place of dwellings, although residential uses will continue to be allowed. The new zoning would permit mixed-use developments from two to four storys, with retail uses at ground level. Upper levels would accommodate office and residential space.

I vaguely recall that we’ve down this path before (April 2012) with the previous Official Plan. I think objections from residents persuaded a previous council to end the downtown commercial zoning at the 25th Sideroad. But the writing has been on the wall.

In August 2018, Simcoe County approved the draft of Innisfil’s newest Official Plan, Our Place. Section 9.2 – Primary Settlement Area, contained a brief indication of what is to come in these words:

“As the Primary Settlement Area, Alcona provides the opportunity to build and enhance public spaces as vibrant Town-wide people places and destinations. Particular focus shall be given to creating and maintaining vibrant public spaces in the Downtown Commercial Area … with a strong pedestrian and built form connection between the Downtown and Innisfil Beach Park along Innisfil Beach Road.[emphasis added]

I don’t know how many people would grasp the implication that this language implied rezoning for mixed-use commercial extending to the lake.

The Our Place report which focused on identifying “place-making” sites in Innisfil discussed Innisfil Beach Road and Park in these terms:

“Innisfil Beach Road has the potential to become a strong, vibrant and unified main street in Alcona. We have focused on the stretch of the road that extends from Jans Boulevard, adjacent to the Sobey’s Supermarket, to Innisfil Beach Park as this has the most potential to become a cohesive main street environment… the commercial core should remain compact and walkable. Additional street amenities such as well-designed wayfinding signage, attractive planting, bike racks and benches located where they will be most useful will contribute to the success of the street. [emphasis added]

Streetscape alone, however, does not make a street vibrant and walkable. A lot depends on the architecture of the buildings that front it and the uses –retail, restaurants and public gathering places — along it.” (Appendix 2, Key Place Making Destinations, p 23)

This is the only apparent reference to reframing the ‘commercial core’ zoning as including the residential portion east of the 25th Sideroad. Most residents would, I think, assume that any reference to the commercial core meant the existing zoning.

Appendix 2 of the Our Place Official Plan presented a short list of recommendations for Innisfil Bach Road including No.4:

“Strengthen and intensify the corridor by encouraging mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and residential above, fronting the sidewalks. Limit building heights, and consider the architectural treatment of the buildings and storefronts with the goal of enlivening the street and creating an attractive retail environment.” [emphasis added]

The language did not clearly define the extent of the ‘corridor’ or make it clear this involved rezoning a portion of the street under discussion. It seems odd that the most recent commercial developments have been occurring on the fringes of the actual presumed downtown ‘core’. The fact that Council is moving the rezone this easterly area over the coming year suggests to me that some of the more central properties may be approaching an actual building stage. Rezoning this residential strip now will enable a transition process to continue over the next decade.