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Barrie city council approves waterfront field development

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With the chambers packed for a second week in a row, Barrie city councillors made a momentous vote on a new plan for the waterfront that has dividing many residents throughout the city.

On Wednesday, city council gave final approval to a proposed plan to develop a new multi-purpose field along the waterfront, between South Shore Park and Minet's Point Park.

"I'll be supporting this as I don't think there was any question in anyone's mind when they came in here tonight where I was at on this," Mayor Alex Nuttall said to the packed chambers. "I'll be supporting this, but there are two things that I'll be looking for."

The first thing was ensuring a proper communication strategy, citing concerns over a lack of local news outlets in Barrie that can lead to confusion amongst council proposals.

The mayor then raised concerns about the proposal's cost, which is estimated at $4.6 million for the field and an additional $4.5 million for a related expansion to the recently renamed General John Hayter Southshore Community Centre. 

The multi-use field will serve as parade grounds for the cadets, something officials say is essential for the program.

An amendment was passed Wednesday that asked staff to analyze the plan's footprint to ensure it is not any larger than it needs to be.

More than two dozen residents addressed council Wednesday, both for and against the proposal.

After an online petition from residents in the area against the plan garnered thousands of signatures, the councillor for the area in question voted against it.

"Thank you, Ward 8. You've been very clear in your effort to communicate with me, and I hear clearly from our side from Ward 8. The clear prevailing sentiment is that we support Sea Cadets moving, we support a multi-purpose field for youth; these are moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, they support that activity fulsomely, just not here," said councillor Jim Harris.

The vote passed overwhelmingly, with Harris and councillor Amy Courser being the only two to vote against it.

Diane Chislett, the Navy League of Canada Barrie branch president, said she's jumping for joy over the decision.

"There were so many people behind us. So many positive reactions to the Sea Cadets moving. Obviously, for safety reasons, but so many more. I was thrilled," she said.

"We have struggled quite literally for 30 years to find a new house for the Navy Cadets," the mayor said.

Now that the project has been approved, City said staff will start the planning and design stages of the project, including consulting with the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority on environmental concerns brought forth.

The City anticipates bringing three concept plans to the public for input and feedback.

With files from CTV's Mike Lang

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