OSHAWA – The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce released a report that could pave the way for the long-awaited development of harbour lands and redevelopment of the marina.

BACKGROUND

In September 2004, the Government Affairs/ Economic Development Committee of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce identified the lack of development at the Oshawa Harbour as a primary issue for analysis, with the goal to recommend a policy to the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. This action was in response to years of perceived inactivity, failed negotiations, and comments made to the Chamber by Ministry of Transportation staff. These comments suggested that the Federal Government would not provide financial assistance to the clean up of the Harbour Lands until the local political issues are resolved. During this time, it was noted by the Committee that the City of Hamilton received $105 million and the City of Belleville received $10 million in federal funding for waterfront development for their respective communities.

At the October 2004 Director’s Meeting of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, the following motion was adopted with respect to the Oshawa Harbour:

That the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce

    1. calls for the immediate release to the public of the Transport Canada Study on the Harbour;
    2. believes Port Oshawa has significant economic benefits for existing business and has the potential to attract new businesses in Durham Region;
    3. believes there are economic benefits to blending industrial, recreational, commercial and residential uses; and
    4. support a timely resolution to the future of Oshawa Harbour and is prepared to play a proactive role in finding answers to outstanding issues.

Since October of 2004, the Committee has met individually with various stakeholders which the Chamber deemed to be critical in the harbour development issue. In December 2004, the Chamber wrote then Minister of Transport the Hon. John C. Lapierre outlining our position and offering to assist in resolving this long outstanding issue. This culminated in a private meeting on March 31st, 2006 with Mayor John Gray, City of Oshawa; MP Colin Carrie, Oshawa Riding; Donna Taylor, Manager, Oshawa Harbour Commission; Frank Reher, Commodore, Oshawa Yacht Club; John Carrick, President, McAsphalt Industries Limited; Mike Hough, Managing Partner, Cherokee Canada Inc; and Colin H. Sinclair, President, Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the meeting was to allow each of the predominant stakeholders an opportunity to express their views on their vision for the Harbour lands, identify commonalities and impediments, and hopefully establish a process to organize a team approach to develop and implement a collective vision for the lands.

The meeting proved educational for all involved, and established a working dialogue for future sessions. It was clear that a NEW VISION was needed, and that all parties were anxious to move forward together on this. It was pointed out that a Site Specific Risk Assessment was presently being conducted by consultants for the City of Oshawa on the harbour lands (see attached map). This Assessment will detail the extent of the environmental contamination of the lands and provide options and costs for the required clean up of the soil. Once received, it will provide important data for a revised harbour land development design study, which the City is planning to revise/conduct.

These are important steps; however, looking back over the years the citizens of Oshawa have consistently awaited the results of various Studies which would supposedly be the key to kick starting harbour development. It is clear that a start to finish development strategy needs to be implemented, with clear objectives and deadlines.

The following Report summarizes our findings over the past two years, and culminates in an analysis of the available options and processes required to kick start this project.

HISTORY

The Port of Oshawa has long been an important port, dating back to the fur trade in the early 18th century. In 1853, it was established as a clearing and warehousing port and was among the reasons why Robert McLaughlin relocated his carriage works business to Oshawa in 1876.

In the 1960’s, the City of Oshawa sold about 30 hectares of prime waterfront, including the harbour, to the federal government, which transferred its administration to the Oshawa Harbour Commission. It was stipulated that this sale/transfer of lands was for "industrial uses". In 1967, following the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Oshawa Harbour was dredged to accommodate "seaway" vessels. It is now home to a commercial port, industrial yard and offers a wide range of cargo handling equipment, including heavy lift cranes.

In 1984, the City of Oshawa developed a very ambitious Oshawa Harbour Development Plan and in 1987 the Waterfront Development Plan. In 1989, the City of Oshawa imposed an Interim Control By-law which restricted development in the area surrounding the Harbour. This was done to allow the City time to develop a comprehensive planning study to confirm the role and function of the Oshawa Harbour. The City engaged Malone Given Parsons Ltd., to conduct this study in 1991. Four alternative plans were generated and assessed, and a mixed use option was selected – a plan which maintained the industrial port while promoting recreational, cultural, and residential uses. The Study also suggested that over the long term, the current port operations could be relocated to an alternative harbour. This "mixed use" concept became the official development strategy.

The Oshawa Harbour Urban Design Study, released in 1995, provides a model for this mixed use design. The Study calls for residential development at the southeast corner of Simcoe Street and Harbour Road, a full-service marina, boat launch, cultural and recreational uses on the west wharf. This study was reviewed by the OMB in the mid 90’s with the above being part of a refinement to the Official Plan.

For more than a decade, the City has been negotiating with the Oshawa Harbour Commission to lease or purchase back the harbour lands. They argue that the land was never developed to its full industrial potential and they have now asked for it back. The mixed use plan remains the official intention of City officials; however, concerns are expressed regarding the types of industrial uses and their compatibility with a people-friendly environment.