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Saugeen Shores approves 50-year lease for controversial beach development

The Town of Saugeen Shores has voted in favour of a 50-year lease that will allow a developer to build a 300-seat banquet hall on publicly owned beachfront in Port Elgin.

Proposal calls for banquet hall on Port Elgin's main beach, a popular summer tourist spot

Opponents say the proposal takes up too much space on the beach and will be located too close to the water. Supporters of the Cedar Crescent Village proposal say it will bring much needed new investment and amenities to the beach. (Cedar Crescent Village)

The Town of Saugeen Shores has voted in favour of a 50-year lease that will allow a developer to build a 300-seat banquet hall on publicly owned beachfront in Port Elgin. 

The lease agreement passed at a council meeting Monday by a 7-1 vote, with Coun. Matt Carr casting the lone vote against. 

The Cedar Crescent Village proposal has been controversial. Opponents say the building's footprint will take away too much "towel space" on the beach which is a popular draw for tourists.  

But developer Pier Donnini and other proponents say the project will bring badly needed investment to the beach, which is lacking in amenities. 

Peggy Corrigan-Dench is a member of the Port-Elgin Beach preservers, a group actively opposed to the proposal. 

She said their best hope now is to try and convince the developer to alter the design in ways that will reduce its impact on the beach.  

The town of Saugeen Shores has approved a 50-year lease to allow a developer to build and operate a 300-seat banquet hall on Port Elgin's main beach. (Cedar Crescent Village)

"I'm pretty disappointed," she said. "We didn't want to see a large commercial development, which is what's going to go forward. I think the developers have had the ear of council for a long time now."

In addition to the all-purpose banquet hall, the proposal includes a licensed restaurant, small retail shops and recreation spaces. A new electric train that doesn't run on rails is also part of the plan and will replace the narrow-gauge train for kids that operated on the beach for years.  

If the project goes ahead as planned the 68,000 square-foot, two-storey building will replace a now-derelict building that served as the station for the mini train. 

In the meantime, opponents like Corrigan-Dench say they will press for more input into the building's final design. They're also seeking an environmental assessment and more information about how the project will affect beach erosion, which has been a problem on Lake Huron all year. 

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