Coun. Barbara Fallot wonders whether Sidney should go ahead with replacing Beacon Wharf, here seen during filming.(Black Press Media File)

Sidney councillor questions value of replacing Beacon Wharf

Coun. Barbara Fallot wonders if replacing the wharf will be worth the cost

A Sidney councillor openly questioned whether Sidney should replace Beacon Wharf, while her colleagues expressed support for a floating wharf — at least as an option.

Coun. Barbara Fallot said Monday she has reservations about creating a select committee studying the future of Beacon Wharf because she is not sure whether Sidney actually needs to replace it.

“I feel with all the things that we could be paying for and need to be paying for in 2020, is this a priority to have a pier/wharf at $8 to $20 million?” she asked. “I don’t know if that is the best way to spend the town’s money. I am really hesitant and I would urge the public to give us feedback on this.”

The figure of $20 million cited by Fallot is the most expensive of the seven replacement options found in a feasibility report from SNC-Lavalin. The least expensive option found in the report is $6.3 million.

Fallot acknowledged that a 2018 visioning document calls for a wharf, but said times and thinking have evolved in light of new realities.

In her remarks, Fallot referenced Coun. Sara Duncan, who had first articulated a version of that argument when councillors meeting as committee-of-the-whole earlier this month first received a feasibility report into replacing the iconic but aging wharf whose remaining lifespan is less than a decade.

Duncan pointed out that a new wharf would be significantly higher than the surrounding urban infrastructure, including Beacon Park, leaving Sidney with a wharf but also the prospect of more intense waves and wind damaging the areas around it.

“I kind of wonder how wise it is for us to be planning to continue building things out into the ocean, when it looks like a lot of stuff near that shore is going to be very expensive to maintain going into the future,” she said.

RELATED: Shortlisted options for Beacon Wharf replacement cost between $6.3 and $14.2 million

RELATED: Pending repairs to Sidney wharf could impact tourism, local business

The public also heard Monday about support for a floating wharf as a third option to the two types of wharves discussed in the feasibility report by SNC-Lavalin.

Broadly speaking, SNC-Lavalin’s four shortlisted replacement options fall into two broad categories: a suspended deck standing on piles and a deck on the top of reclaimed fill protected by rock. According to the report, the suspended deck option would be cheaper and less harmful on the environment during construction than the “rubble deck” option, but it is not as straightforward as it might appear.

Against this background, Coun. Peter Wainright raised the idea of a floating deck as a third “important” option in asking staff to bring forward cost estimates A floating deck would not need to be as high, because it would go up and down with sea levels, he said. “That might end up costing quite a bit less,” he said. A floating deck also wouldn’t block views as much as a static structure, and harm the environment less, he added.

“It has some merits and should be looked at,” he said.

Couns. Chad Rintoul and Terri O’Keeffe agreed with Wainwright’s idea in supporting the creation of the select committee. It shows to the community that Sidney is doing its due diligence, said O’Keeffe.

Council eventually concluded the discussion by unanimously changing the proposed structure of the select committee by doubling the number of councillors to two with Wainwright and Duncan accepting appointments from Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, who will chair the committee. Two members of the public yet to be chosen (rather than two or three as initially proposed) will join the committee. It will exist until Dec. 31, 2020 with terms of reference still awaiting approval.


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