A flip-flopping Coun. Mark Bauman delivered up a chunk of Breslau parkland for a new Catholic elementary school Tuesday night.
His vote, coupled with that of Coun. Scott Hahn, who missed last week’s meeting, was enough to reverse Woolwich council’s decision about the controversial joint project on township land. The new vote was 4-2 in favour (Patrick Merlihan and Larry Shantz stayed the course), whereas councillors were opposed 3-2 at the Sept. 29 committee of the whole meeting.
The decision clears the way for the township to sell a portion of Breslau Memorial Park to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board in a $1.75-million deal that would allow for upgrades to the park and community centre, as well as community access to new facilities, including a 5,000-square-foot library operated by the Region of Waterloo.
The plan calls for the construction of a new building that would provide washrooms, a concession stand and house the mechanical plant for a community-built splash pad.
Now, the township must ensure everything goes off with absolutely no hitches and not a moment’s loss of access to the general public – essentially wowing the critics – to avoid rendering the highly divisive project a failure.
Where last week the “no” side packed the list of delegates, this week supporters made a last-minute pitch to save the project.
Having thought a final decision had been made, those opposed to the project stormed out of the meeting angrily. The response on social media was almost instantaneous Tuesday night.
“This week I was emotionally charged by the new challenge ahead of me and the numerous volunteers that came forward to me this week. We had an opportunity to come together and work on projects and actually build our community. After this engaging week, watching Bauman flip flop was devastating,” wrote Matthew VanderMeer, a member of the community taskforce that studied the bid, on his blog.
“What I feel is the biggest loss to Woolwich is the volunteers that came together to make something out of our park. They are devastated and feel they have been shot in the back. The businesses that have donated money in the past have now said they won’t donate a dime. I am interested to see the magic for how far this $1.75 million will go. Once they use that up, that’s it.”
Others went away happy, of course. After months of saying little, almost a dozen people spoke in favour of the deal.
Calling much of the park underused “fallow green space,” Daniel Horgan argued it would take decades of fundraising for the community to come up with the money the school board is offering up.
“This would definitely benefit everyone in Breslau,” said Nora Lyon, encouraging councillors to reverse their decision.
A number of Breslau parents with children currently attending St. Boniface school in Maryhill argued the land deal was the only way to expedite a new school in their community. As emails and social media messages were flying Monday and Tuesday, the school board was claiming a new building would have to wait three to five years if the township land wasn’t made available.
“A great opportunity is being missed,” said George Silva, whose two children attend St. Boniface school.
Expressing a common sentiment, Breslau resident Dave Nichol said many of those in support of the project weren’t vocal because they thought it would go through on its merits.
“There’s so much wasted space in that park,” he argued, adding that the money from the sale would allow for the remaining parkland to be upgraded into something useful.
Those opposed to the deal, many of whom spoke last week, joined the list of delegates, urging councillors to stick with their decision to avoid selling of parkland, but to no avail.