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Published on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Town and Oakville Yacht Squadron settle dispute that could have jeopardized club's future

Public access assured for publicly funded boardwalk

Town and Oakville Yacht Squadron settle dispute that could have jeopardized club's future
Photo by Riziero Vertolli
Oakville Harbour location of OYS
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

The Oakville Yacht Squadron (OYS) and the Town of Oakville have settled a dispute that could have jeopardized the club’s continued use of the town-owned property at 97 Forsythe St.

Town council voted unanimously Tuesday, Feb. 27 to accept a memorandum of understanding signed by the club, which is expected to lead to a licence agreement by Oct. 31, 2018.

That agreement would see the OYS continue to use the Forsythe property for 25 years, with the option to renew for another 25 years.

The previous lease of the club facility at the site expired in July 2015.

That property features an 18,837-square-foot building used for club events and classes for the sailing schools, 75 mooring slips of which 48 are attached to floating docks.

“I want to thank the OYS for being responsive and creating what I believe are great new opportunities for the club and for the public,” said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.


The memorandum covers license fees, ensures year round public access to the boardwalk and walkway, requires the OYS to keep the majority of the facility’s parking lot clear and open to the public during the summer months and designates areas of the property where the club can store boats and masts during the winter months.

A previous sticking point in the agreement was resolved with the club agreeing to sell floating docks it owns to the town for $65,000.

The club had wanted $81,455.

A second sticking point concerning a public “waterfront attraction or destination or feature” being created at the Forsythe property was also resolved.

OYS representatives said this waterfront attraction idea had not been mentioned in two years of negotiations and voiced concerns about it being included as a condition in any future lease agreement noting there had been no definition as to exactly what this would be or what the club’s role would be in operating it.

As part of their unanimous motion council agreed to separate the waterfront attraction issue from the terms of the memorandum of understanding and directed town staff to review and discuss options for the creation and operation of a waterfront attraction or destination or feature with the OYS and potentially other third parties.

They also called for the proposal to be a recommendation under the forthcoming Harbours Master Plan.

The path to this outcome had an exceedingly rocky start when during a Feb. 20 meeting of the town’s administrative services committee Burton proposed a motion calling for the termination of the club’s lease.

Burton argued negotiations had been going on for eight years and said there was no sense of urgency on the part of the OYS to reach a deal.

He said the motion sought to “turn the tables and put the shoe on the other foot.”

The bulk of the administrative services committee voted to pass this motion.

OYS representatives disputed they were responsible for negotiations delays stating they were presented with the possibility of a new lease in 2010, but declined because of proposed financial increases and because they had five years left on their existing lease.

After that they said they couldn't get the town back to the bargaining table until after the lease expired in 2015.

Council backed away from the lease termination option during their Feb. 26 meeting.

By this time the club had agreed to all the conditions of the memorandum of understand with the waterfront attraction issue being the only obstacle.

Council heard from 13 delegations that night including OYS members and past and present club leaders who called on council to move forward with the agreement.

They also talked about how since being founded in 1946 the not-for-profit, volunteer run organization had helped thousands of youths though its sailing school, had held fundraisers for local Olympians and had carried out charity work for groups like Easter Seals giving children with disabilities and their families the experience of a day out on the water.

Ward 2 Coun. Cathy Duddeck was among several councillors who spoke to the Feb. 27 motion.

“I am delighted to support this motion. This motion will finally move us forward in maintaining the viability of the OYS for many years to come,” she said.

“It is unfortunate that as a result of the latest round of discussions many within the community were under the impression that the volunteer efforts of the Oakville Yacht Squadron were not appreciated and there was an effort to dissolve this organization. For me nothing could be further from the truth.”

The unanimous passing of the motion was met with applause from the OYS members and supporters present.

“I think things worked out excellently. It is wonderful that town council listened to our side of the story. I don’t think they had all the information before and in these situations it is good to have all the facts before you make a decision,” said OYS Rear Commodore Murray Souter.

“We’re very pleased with what the town did. The vote being unanimous, all the councillors speaking in support of OYS and what we do in the town was magnificent. I know all the members were pleased.”
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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