What started out as a search for a bit of land to house soccer fields quickly morphed into something else as Wellesley jumped on the chance to acquire a 32-acre tract, with councillors agreeing to spend $800,000 on the purchase.
The township’s 2014 parks and recreation master plan pointed to a shortage of recreational land. The new deal puts a dent in that shortfall, providing much-needed space today and room for future development.
It was a rare chance that could not be passed on, said Mayor Joe Nowak
“This is forward-looking and it is an opportunity that doesn’t come up too often, to get a piece of property like that with land that is serviceable,” he said to council. “I think that this is an important opportunity for the township.”
The property is on the northeast corner of Queen’s Bush and Hutchison roads. In addition to the 32 acres to be purchased, the landowner is donating another eight acres.
The decision to go ahead with the buy was made in a closed session on June 21, with a tentative closing date of Sept. 1.
For Melanie Martin of St. Clements’ recreation service board committee, the first consideration is determining what will be done with the land.
“It seems like a lot of money if you don’t know what you are going to use it for,” she said.
Planner Geoff van der Baaren noted only a part of the property will be put to use for the time being, with the unused portion serving as a revenue generator.
“About half of the 30 (usable) acres has already been earmarked and identified as for playing fields, and the rest would be some sort of future use,” he said, adding that the rest of the parcel won’t be vacant. It is currently being rented and farmed. The existing farmland “is going to be worked, basically by the farmer that is renting it now. We will rent the portion of the township land we are not using.”
Nowak stressed that the land would never be used for anything other than township purposes.
“It can’t be used for residential, it can’t be used for commercial or anything of that nature … as long as the township maintains ownership,” he said.
One of the options discussed was replacing some township buildings that are getting to the end of their lives.
“It gives us that flexibility and we don’t have to go looking to buy something in 10 years,” said van der Baaren.
As well as approving the purchase of the land, council gave staff the go ahead to borrow through debentures, in addition to funds from the parkland reserve account, to pay for the acquisition. A report on the debenture will come to councillors at a future meeting.