At a special meeting on June 15, Council debated the future of the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Regional Road #20. Council voted to “not dispose of any portion of the Town-owned lands in East Fonthill” until the resolution of three significant issues.
First, the lands must be converted from “Business Park” to other designations as part of the Official Plan review. You see, in 1997 the Town designated 59 acres at Rice and Regional Road #20 as “Business Park.” When the previous Council purchased 32 acres of this property in 2005, they paid for it as if 7.9 acres were designated “Commercial” and with the intention of using most of the remaining for recreational uses. Unfortunately, neither use is (or was) allowable in Business Parks.
And, while the previous Council started to fix the designation, they stopped in April 2006 at the demand of a majority Landowners Group. Then, as had been forewarned, the Province locked-in any such “Employment Lands” (including Business Parks) in June 2006; the only way to unlock that designation is through a “comprehensive review.” The current Council began that work in 2008 and is on track to (hopefully) change it in the new Official Plan in September / October 2010.
Second, the Landowners Group must finalize the East Fonthill Secondary Plan. You see, the previous Council gave away control of the detailed planning process – called a “Secondary Plan” – to that majority Landowners Group in September 2006. Despite this Council working as closely as possible with the Group and despite their 2008 and 2009 promises of imminent completion, the Group didn’t file a first draft until this June. Now, the rest of the process should take until at least the spring of 2011.
Third, the decision on the property’s use should not be decided until Council considers the recommendations of the Recreational Facilities Committee. While anticipated this past May / June, the Committee is now not expected to review the business case and final draft report until September; the earliest Council could consider it would then be October 2010.
As I stated during the meeting, I am extremely frustrated with this entire process. I believe that these planning issues should have been taken care of before the property was purchased; for example, the current Council rezoned property before we completed its purchase for the new Fire Station #2. I also never imagined it would take so long to test the business case and answer all the community’s questions about the need and costs for new recreational facilities.
Please be assured that I will continue to keep you informed on these matters.