UXBRIDGE: Local residents packed council chambers on Monday (Jan. 27) night to voice their concerns over the proposed sale of the King St. parkette.
Council held a public planning meeting to discuss the move, which would require a zoning by-law amendment to convert the parkette to a residential building lot.
Since 2011, parks department staff have been conducting playground reviews, and according to Manager of Recreation Facilities and Parks Bob Ferguson, compared to other township parks, the King St. parkette is a low-use park, and is currently, the smallest park in the municipality. Mr. Ferguson added that annual maintenance of the park currently costs between $500 and $1,000. As well, frequent changes to playground standards in recent years has left the park stripped of most of its equipment.
"Playground standards have changed three times since 1999, and the only remaining equipment is a swing set. The rest of the equipment was removed due to safety standards," added Mr. Ferguson.
Early in the meeting, Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger proposed a solution to the issue that would see the park re-zoned, but kept as greenspace.
"My personal feeling is that I don’t like to lose greenspace," said Councillor Ballinger. "It could be re-zoned now and kept as a park."
Local resident Gerry Oldham was the first to address council, and has been involved with efforts to maintain the property as a park for more than 30 years, including circulating a petition in 1983 when the township first investigated a possible sale of the park.
"I think our neighbourhood has enjoyed this park for 40 years and I’m hopeful for another 40 years," said Ms. Oldham. In her comments to council, Ms. Oldham took issue with the park being characterized as vacant and abandoned.
"Aside from a slide, to the best of my knowledge the town has never upgraded the park’s equipment when compared to other areas," commented Ms. Oldham. "If it appears abandoned, then the blame lies with the town."
Ms. Oldham added that the parkette was recently assigned a green number, and surveying recently took place on the property.
Former Councillor Susan Self also appeared before council to protest the potential sale.
In her comments, Ms. Self pointed to a report issued by Township Clerk Debbie Leroux on Oct. 7 that stated the park could potentially be worth $144,000 as a residential building lot. However, since the property would have to be serviced at a cost of approximately $50,000, the sale would ultimately net the municipality $94,000.
However, Ms. Self noted that several fees including those for legal representation and a real estate agent were not included, potentially downgrading the total income for the township to around $50,000. As well, Ms. Self took issue with the money from the potential sale being put into a general revenue fund.
"If it is your intention to sell public greenspace - which can never be replaced - there is a moral obligation to put the money back into the parks and rec department and not use it as a one per cent budget decrease in an election year."
Ms. Self added that a notice given to nearby residents of the park described it as a "former parkette."
Another local resident noted that the sale of the park would not match up with other initiatives undertaken by the township to promote physical activity amongst young people.
"If we’re supposed to be encouraging children to be active, then it seems very shortsighted to sell off greenspace," said Leslie Edwards.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle commented that the sale is not merely about money, but part of a larger plan for the future of parks in Uxbridge Township.
"Our goal is not just a cash grab, we’re trying to make the best decision for the entire township," said Councillor Mantle. "We do care about our playground and recreation infrastructure, and we’re just trying to figure out the best strategy going forward."
Residents wishing to comment on the potential sale of the King St. parkette can do so by submitting comments to the township’s clerks department by Monday, Feb. 10 at Town Hall, located at 51 Toronto St. South.