Developing Orillia's Waterfront Responsibly

(70 Front Street Plaza)

I am absolutely in favour of developing our city’s waterfront responsibly, but I take great issue with the potential move to build up our waterfront to towering heights.

Orillia for me has always been as the way Leacock described it. That little tight knit community nestled on the shore of the calm lake. The place where everyone knows one another and personality shines through. To me that little town described in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is still very much alive and well.

Our Council’s debate over heights at the waterfront should not be taken lightly. The discussion we are having right now and into the future could change our community’s complexion and alter our understanding of what it is to be an Orillian. In question is the Waterfront, yes, but it will also direct our town’s development going forward.

The new zoning changes that affect the city owned land will permit structures up to 8 stories. I think it is important to put the size of an 8 story building into perspective. When we talk about 8 stories we are talking about the equivalent of having approximately two Elgin Bay developments stacked one on top of the other. Needless to say the floor numbers we are discussing represent a significant development project that will not just alter the Orillia Skyline, it will create an Orillia skyline.

For the next 100 years and probably more, what we build at that waterfront is going to define our town. There is so much potential there. To create something that benefits all, that everyone of us can enjoy and be proud of. There are a million things we can do to redefine ourselves in a positive way without reaching 8 stories. Yet we continually push toward building something that will block out the sun.

If we allow high developments at the waterfront, I can’t help but think of what the sequel to Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town would be. That original name just wouldn’t be true anymore.  I think it would have to be something more along the lines of Eclipsed Sketches of a Big City.