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Woolwich in no-win situation over Breslau park plan

Woolwich council is in a no-win situation over the township’s proposed Breslau deal with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. The community appears far too split on the issue for any decision to be the right one.

Findings from a taskforce looking at the proposal are anything but conclusive. In roughly equal measures, residents support the concept, reject it or remain indifferent. Even the group looking into the options was split along similar lines, able to come up with a definitive stance.

The lack of consensus doesn’t help the taskforce, which some residents – particularly project opponents – see as so much window dressing en route to a deal to sell part of Breslau Memorial Park to the school board. A pet project more than a year in the making is likely to be rubber stamped, say critics of the process.

Given the results and the lacklustre feedback from the community, council’s safe answer is “no.” There simply isn’t enough support to justify going all in. Blame for any and all problems – and there will be problems – will immediately fall on councillors and staff, the ones responsible for gambling away the public’s money, wellbeing and green space.

Gambling is an applicable word for it. Councillors could also choose to roll the dice in hopes the project delivers benefits well beyond the expectations of the ambivalent residents. In  that case, they’d be the ones with the foresight to see the potential.

Of course, turning down the idea also comes with risks. The school will be built somewhere else nearby, and any problems will spill over on the township, even if the fault lies completely with the board. More to the point, in foregoing the $1.7 million deal, the township won’t have the money to upgrade the park – those opposed to the deal today may be those decrying the lack of amenities tomorrow.

Which, then, is the bigger gamble? Yes or no?

The easy answer – no – provides the least risk in the short term. It commits the township to nothing, and the park remains as it is right now.

Yes, on the other hand, commits the township to selling off parkland and initiating a large number of improvements to the park. There’s also the issue of a school where green space used to be, and potential conflicts in shared use of the facilities. But there would be new amenities the township couldn’t justify otherwise.

Compounding the problem is the fact this is a now-or-never deal. If the new school doesn’t go into a spot adjacent to the community centre, it will be built without any money or facilities for the township. Breslau residents will, however, still want to see improvements to the park, with all future work – and it may be a while – financed solely from township coffers.

The prospect of losing out on that cash might be what tips the scales in favour of selling the land, throwing in with the board and letting the chips fall where they may after the school opens and the residents react to the new reality, good, bad or indifferent.

Not everyone is happy now. Not everyone is going to be happy when council makes a decision. And the lack of happiness will continue in, say, two years from now if there is or isn’t a new school on what is now township land.

Just which group of people will be the most unhappy is now up to council and its no-win decision.

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