A last-minute push to overturn a controversial selloff of Breslau parkland fell short, as Woolwich council remained determined to go for the cash.
Another round of impassioned appeals and a petition to keep the town’s lone park intact failed to sway councillors meeting Tuesday night. In a 3-2 vote, they set in motion the process to declare the land surplus and sell it to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to build a new elementary school.
Last-minute is something of a misnomer, however, as council will have to vote on the next stage of the sale in another month’s time. It remains to be seen if opponents will make another bid to halt the project, which they argue will render much of the park unusable, cut off access to the community centre and kill volunteer spirit in the community.
Looking to demonstrate the community’s willingness to raise money for needed improvements to Breslau Memorial Park rather than putting part of it up for sale, those residents formed a group called Building Breslau, soliciting $45,000 in pledges in less than a week.
“It is not too late to turn this into a positive outcome. I ask you to have faith and give us a chance,” said resident Bill Smith, arguing in favour of letting the community take charge of the process.
Calling the sale a “short-sighted plan,” Luke Misurka argued that the long list of improvements sketched out in conceptual drawings to bolster the project are unlikely to materialize.
“Please don’t sell us out tonight by declaring our parkland surplus,” he asked.
Others in favour of the plan urged councillors to stay the course.
For Christine Wright, the money is too good an offer to pass up. She compared the one-time-only deal to missing out on casino proposals and forsaking all the revenue.
Wayne Wright, meanwhile, urged those opposed to get all the facts, stressing that the proceeds from the sale of public property will be funnelled back into the community.
Many of the speakers urged those opposed to the project, many of whom form the community’s volunteer base, not to turn their backs on the township for having disregarded their position.
Acknowledging the frustration, Coun. Larry Shantz continued to speak out against the sale, calling the move short-term thinking with long-term consequences. The move will mean the loss of an opportunity for real community building, with residents coming together to decide on priorities, raise funds and work together. Instead, there will be expectations that the township is responsible for meeting the community’s every want using the money from the sale.
Coun. Mark Bauman, who maintained his vote for the selloff, acknowledged the proceeds won’t cover all the improvements the community is looking for.
“It’s not enough money to do all the work we need to do in this park.”
The township will now push for a community advisory group to help decide where the limited resources afforded by the sale should be spent. That discussion is expected when council meets again on Nov. 10. In the meantime, the countdown is on for the 30-day public notice period to declare the land surplus, with a vote set for Dec. 1.