Keep your hands off our park!
That was the message nearly 300 residents delivered to city council last week when it pondered selling two acres of public green space to developers for residential housing.
Neighbours of the former Kinsmen Community Centre at 656 Lakeshore Rd. said relinquishing community parkland for quick money is a bad idea that sets a troubling precedent.
No doubt, developers are interesting in land that backs onto Baxter Park and Baxter Beach, said neighbour Patrick Marcella, who added that with so many new homes going up near The Rapids Parkway there’s no need to sell good parkland.
Sarnia’s own 2005 Waterfront Master Plan calls for an expansion of the beach and park for even greater public use, not less, he said.
Selling the land, neighbour David Singleton told council, “It’s akin to burning the furniture to heat your home and saying, “Look at how much I saved on gas.’”
City planners were asking for an amendment to the Official Plan to rezone the property from “parks” to “urban residential.”
The Kinsmen Community Centre was declared surplus last year after staff estimated it would cost a quarter of a million dollars to replace a leaking roof and remove mould and asbestos.
Nearly 300 people signed a petition urging council not to rezone the land.
Faced with such resistance, council deferred a decision. Instead, it instructed city staff to work with the community over the next six months and come up with a plan combining new housing with improvements to Baxter Park.
Councillors warned that the city is asset-rich but cash-poor and must consider every revenue option.
“We have more parks … than we can sustain,” said Coun. Brian White.
Canatara and Centennial, shoreline protection and the closed Jackson Pool are all expensive budget items, he noted.
“We need the money.”