wrtwbr · 2021-01-18

Downtown plan has some councillors nervous

If they build it, will they come?

Innisfil’s politicians are hoping the answer is a resounding yes when it comes to the ambitious $17 to $20 million downtown Alcona plan.

They’re betting the beautification plan, which will create an upscale streetscape, will attract businesses to Innisfil Beach Road between the 20th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe.

But some councillors continue to express concerns over the project’s escalating costs.

Last week, councillors Paul Wardlaw, Dan Davidson and Peter Kmet, opposed paying an additional $35,000 in consultant’s fees for the second phase of the project.

Last December, those councillors were joined by Lynn Dollin when they voted against increasing the budget for the first phase between Jans Boulevard and the 25th Sideroad from $5.6 million to $6.1 million.

“The numbers keep changing. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” Wardlaw said last week. “We haven’t even put a shovel in the ground yet.”

The latest increase relates to the third “precinct” from 25th Sideroad to Lake Simcoe next to Innisfil Beach Park.

Planning director Robert McAuley told council “there are some concerns” about how the architectural component will work on that section since it is closer to the lake. The streetscape should also mirror the high standards of the first phase, council has been told.

“There is a risk the budget might go over,” McAuley said. “Until we really get into the project, we don’t know.”

Much of the costs for the first portion, which will see construction this year, will be paid through development charges. But the section from the 25th Sideroad to the lake will have an impact on taxes, McAuley said.

Mayor Brian Jackson, Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope and Coun. Rod Boynton continued their vigorous defense of the project last week.

“If you are going to attract business you have to spend money,” Wauchope said. “You are not going to attract business the way the street is now. It’s an embarrassment.”

Council has asked for a report breaking down the projects estimated costs, including how much will be paid through development charges.