About 50 people with varying opinions about the future of the Bedford waterfront attended the first of three open houses to be hosted by the Waterfront Development Corp. over the next two months. The invite said coffee and conversation and both sides kept it to that. There were no speakers and no debates
Picture boards featuring conceptual drawings of plans for development of the waterfront - some dating back to the 1980s - were set up around the ground floor room of the dockside condominium where the open house took place.
Although things remained civilized compared to many public meetings about this hot topic neither side was afraid to share their views on the proposed development.
As of September of this year, the HRM Waterfront Development proposed plan includes 30 or more four to 12 storey buildings along the waterfront.
Concerned residents want project infilling to stop and are demanding a new vision for the waterfront.
Guests included local residents, politicians, members of the Waterfront Development Board and concerned groups like Save Bedford's Waterfront Society.
"We were very surprised that they continue to proceed with a slightly modified 2010 vision in spite of our group being told by the HRM that the plan had been rejected," said Mark Currie on behalf of the society. "It still shows destruction of Crosby Island and the natural reef."
Grant Walker was a councillor for Bedford from 1988 to 1991. He supports development, but said the plans have changed dramatically since the project — which was aimed at 'bringing people back to the waterfront' — was first envisioned.
"It's a wonderful idea and with so much public input over the years I don't think I could be against it," he said. "And it does make me angry that certain people who have been for it are now jumping on the other side for what I think are political reasons."
The Clark family is concerned mainly about esthetics.
"I think we have to look at something more community oriented as opposed to a monstrosity that looks like Croatia after the war," said Blair Clark.
Waterfront Development president and CEO Colin MacLean said he was happy with how the evening went.
"We were pleased with the turn out," he said. "People said they liked the informal format, as it allowed for conversations on many different facets of the project. We were able to clarify some questions people had about the ideas developed to date, particularly when it came to the public spaces in the concept plan. There are more of them than people had come to believe."
The next open house is scheduled for Feb. 28 at the same location, 210 Waterfront Dr. in Bedford.