Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Sell The Land?

You may have heard that last Monday, the majority of Council’s Planning Committee – which is actually made up of all of Council – voted to sell the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway 20. Yesterday, Council was to have ratified that decision.

I would like you to know my personal reasons for voting to sell that property.

In January 2005, the majority of the Council-of-the-day voted to purchase the 32 acres of land to build or relocate many Town amenities. That vision was to build a community centre that included a Twin-Pad Arena, an Indoor Pool, a Recreation Centre, a Library, and a Town Hall. The dream was to also relocate most baseball and soccer fields to the site so it would become a “one-stop-shop” for Town recreation, culture, and administration.

But, because it’s in the furthest quadrant of Town, 99.5% of all current residents would have had to drive and park on acres of asphalt. (That dream also made no reference of what to do with the more walkable sites of our current parks and facilities.)

The Facilities Feasibility Study that this Council received on April 7 dismissed that “one-stop-shop” vision.

Based on extensive participation from community groups, sport associations, and members of the general public, the consultant praised the campus-like feel of the Fonthill downtown. The presence of the Town Hall and the Fonthill Library Branch complement the downtown’s businesses and other features like the Bandshell, Farmer’s Market, Post Office, and senior’s residences.

Pointing to the thousands of Pelham’s YMCA members, the consultant dismissed the idea of a Town-run recreation centre.

And, while calling for a new Twin-Pad Arena, the consultant made no recommendation on location – despite those 32 acres.

Without any ringing endorsement, I knew we needed to sell the property.

But, I also voted to sell because we need to provide you value for your money.

Did you know that by the end of this year, the Town will have paid $493,000 in principal and more than $700,000 in interest for that property? That’s $1.2 million and not one more kid played hockey or soccer or baseball or figure-skated!

My vote was not about whether we should repair, rebuild, or replace any of your Town facilities; that report will be coming to Council on June 2.

I voted to sell the property because I support facilities and parks that complement and enhance our Town and that provide value and service for your tax-dollars.