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Beach limit debated

One of the central issues “that has come so squarely before the board” is the precedent that will be set in allowing development on what is known as the dynamic beach area, said lawyer Eric Gillespie.

Gillespie represented a group of cottagers and residents who formed the Fort Erie Waterfront Preservation Association to appeal the Bay Beach development.

Among the main arguments against the project is that the Provincial Policy Statement prohibits development on a dynamic beach.

Beaches that undergo continuous change from natural erosion and deposit of material such as sand are considered dynamic.

Robin Davidson-Arnott is a retired professor at the University of Guelph does research in the study of coastal dune dynamics and testified on behalf of the appellants.

He said the proposed development is in the flood hazard zone and the presence of built structures will prevent the natural development of dunes which protect the areas beyond the beach from flooding. The project will also damage the habitat for plants and wildlife.

Davidson-Arnott recommended that naturalization of the area should take place with washrooms and other structures built on the north side of Erie Road and boardwalks built across the dunes to provide public access to the water.

He also suggested the Town and Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority work with private landowners to construct waterfront buffer areas to protect the natural heritage of the dune structure.

Judy Sullivan, a coastal engineer who helped write a section of the Provincial Policy Statement regarding coastlines, said the PPS was incorrectly interpreted by the Molinaro engineer and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority which approved the plan.

She said that although the existing shorewall structures prevent the natural dynamism of the beach, the proponents are wrong to contend that the protected areas are not part of the hazard area.

The interpretation that the existing shorewall is similar to a natural cliff where the dynamic beach ends is also wrong, she said.

“Regardless of whether a shoreline structure exists, the dynamic beach must still be defined with the correct classification system occurring at the site,” she wrote in her witness statement.

Mark Kohlberg, an engineer with Baird and Associates working for the Molinaro Group who also participated in development of shoreline policies for the PPS, said the dynamic beach has effectively been limited by the extent of the existing shoreworks.

“A natural beach dune system has not existed at the site for many decades,” he wrote in his statement. “There is no existing dune system to protect.”

He said Davidson-Arnott and Sullivan are relying on a generic definition to base their opinions that doesn’t apply because of the extensive and continuous shorewalls all along Abino Bay.

“If the generic dynamic beach limit was applied, virtually all the existing waterfront properties would be sterilized with minimal or no future rights for development or redevelopment. This approach would also require removal of all the existing seawalls.”

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