Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Breslau Task Force on WCDSB Proposal

This is a video that I put together to try and give some visual perspective to the parkland we are discussing.

First things first

I have created a flyer that you can download and distribute to help spread the word about this blog and about this project.

Task Force first meeting synopsis

Our first meeting was May 14, 2015 and we discussed the plan and expectations for our time together.  I will not be using this blog to write about the discussions of the Task Force as we agreed that details that emerge from task force discussions should be clear and consistent and be made available on the Township of Woolwich web page. I will mention that there was a slight change in the make up of the task force to include 2 members for the project, 2 members against, and 3 members who are undecided.  This a a removal of a representative from the parent council of St. Boniface and an addition of an undecided.  It was a pleasure to meet my other task force members and I was very encouraged by the their willingness to ask the right questions and everyone's open mind on these issues.  All of the dialog was respectful and I look forward to working with this group.  The goal is to have a final report before the last council meeting in June before they have a summer break.  I think this is an aggressive timeline but we will see what can be done.

WCDSB Proposal History and Details

For those of you who are new to this discussion I wanted to use this post to give links back to old posts on this topic to get you caught up on what has been going on.  Granted all of this is through my eyes and my opinion so you can take that as you will.

This is a chronological list of my blog posts
  1. Green Space More Important than New School 
  2. Protect Green Space Call to Action 
  3. Breslau Catholic Elementary School Partnership 
  4. Breslau Memorial Park is More than Green Space 
  5. Traffic and Safety Concerns - New School
  6. Breslau Post Meeting Synopsis - Trust Issues
  7. State of the Park Address
  8. Development Charges, a Task Force, and a Rally
On approximately February 4, 2015, I started a petition to inform the Township and the WCDSB that residents were opposed to this plan.  At this time there are 248 signatures on the petition, if you are interested in signing you can follow the link below:


I recognize that I started this petition before the first public meeting was even held, however, the signatures continue to grow and here are some examples of comments posted in the last month:

Undeveloped land needs to be used to build the new Catholic School in Breslau, inclusive of a proper traffic plan. The designated green space we have in Breslau needs to be left green! -Tanya 
I support this community in retaining its park space for recreation and community activities. -Geddy
The park and community are central to our small community. I agree with Iva. It cannot be replaced. There is room for a school on undeveloped land. Please keep our park for everyone to enjoy at anytime. -Erin
I believe that the sale of this parkland is only in the interests of the WRCSB and not at all in the interests of the citizens of Breslau nor the Township of Woolwich. Added to this is the fact that this is being sold at an outrageous discount. -Blake
 We value the park space as part of our community and do not agree with it being sold.-Donna
This park land is a part of the Breslau Community and should not be sold for ANY reason!!! -William
Green space is the reason we moved in Breslau and now will become concrete and buildings??? There's so much undeveloped space around Breslau, use that land for the school. -Aida
 I've lived here for 65 years. The park is 70 years old and has always been the center of the community. 4 acres of green in the core of Breslau can never be replaced if a school is built. -Iva

The following is a list of information materials that are available for this proposal:

Finally, I am part of the task force of residents requested by council to look at this proposal.  As part of this task force I want to hear from you.  Obviously, I have put my opinion out here on these posts but I always believe that there is something that I have missed or more that I can learn. I would love for you to contact me at matthewlvandermeer2@gmail.com.  Any details or questions that you can bring to me in this way I will bring o the task force.

Thank you Breslau for your spirit and your community engagement.  The one thing about this proposal that I absolute love is the renewed sense of community that I have experienced in Breslau over the last several months.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Development Charges, a Task Force, and a Rally

Wow, it has been over a month since my State of the Park Address, I kept meaning to write up another post but I couldn't really organize myself enough.  The photo above occurred this past weekend where one of many events are held at the community centre, in the parking lot, and soccer field near by.  These events occur often and I wonder how they will be impacted once a school is built there. Will these events still occur? Will specific permission need to be granted by the school board to use the property? Will the events have the space to spill out with kids activities on the grass right next to the community centre?  I have no intention on finding out because there are many reasons why this project should not happen. My last post discussed the creation of a Task Force to look with more depth at the proposal by WCDSB to purchase parkland in Breslau and build a new elementary school.  Since that time the following individuals have been identified as Task Force members:
  • Karen Augusto
  • JoAnna Brunnenmeir
  • Robyn King
  • Terri-Ann Kuntz
  • Bill Smith
  • Matthew VanderMeer <--- thats me
  • Wayne Wright
  • Councillors – Murray Martin and Larry Shantz ( Non-voting)
  • Sandra Hanmer (Non-voting Chair)
I have attended a bunch of council meetings over the past few weeks and I honestly believe that the Councillors are seeking solid factual information.  I think some of the parks and recreation staff may have already made up their minds on the project but this thing is a long way from over because it will come down to a township council vote.  From what I understand there were 14 applications to be on the task for and 7 were against the current proposal, 3 supported it, and 4 were undecided or neutral.  From the applicants they selected 2 from each group and a representative from the parent council of St. Boniface.  I have been selected for this task force and I want to encourage anyone and everyone to please send me your thoughts, comments, ideas, and solutions to this situation.  You can contact me at matthewlvandermeer2@gmail.com. We as Breslau need to be in communication with each other and I want to hear from you if you support this project and why.  Tell me what benefit I am missing.

As the first act of my task force involvement, I attended a information session on Development Charges.  The first thing that I would like to say about the topic is that it is very confusing and subject to change with little notice.  The coles notes version of development charges is they are charged and used for supporting the development of infrastructure and services that support growth in a given region or municipality. What this means is any costs associated to improving the park facilities to support the growing number of residents could and should be supported via development charges.  Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult and complicated then that because the projects that are required to support growth need to be identified and pseudo budgeted for within the context of a background study.  The background study is then used to calculated the development charges that a construction company is charged.  The background study needs to be repeated and updated every 5 years and staff must report to council how development charges are spent annually. So there is a lot of paper work and regulations here.

A very important message that came from this session was if you donate money for a township project you MUST SPECIFY that your donation is for the NON-GROWTH related portion of the project.  If you do this then the growth related part of the project can and will be funded via development charges.  If you do not specify then your donation will be split 50/50 and then less development charges will be able to be used.  Development charges are charged to developers to help the township cover capital costs of sustaining growth.  Your donations are not for sustaining growth but should be used for enhancing existing services.  This brings to my mind a significant question, nah rather a demand, that ALL 1.75 million from the sale of our park (providing this goes through) should be directly designated for NON-GROWTH related project expenditures.  This demand is based on the fact that the development companies who built in Breslau were charged development charges to support the growth they were responsible for.  Therefore, that money along with any other money charged to Breslau developers in the coming years should continue to be used to support Breslau GROWTH-RELATED projects and NOT used to pay down the $858 000 deficit in development charges for the Memorial Centre in Elmira.  All development charges collected in Elmira should be used to pay that down instead of continuing to siphon off Breslau growth related projects.

Finally, a group of residents are organizing a rally to show support for the park.  Please take the time to consider stopping by the Community Centre on May 9, 2015 between 1:00 and 3:00 pm to show your support for the park.

We all understand the limited options available to municipalities when it comes to growth and maintenance projects.  However, we also understand the scarcity of parkland in our increasingly urban society.

I am exited to be a part of this task force and have the opportunity to apply a strong voice for alternative options for this project.  Development charges are a mechanism to support growth related expenses but are not the only revenue stream for our township.  We have to continue to plan for our future and make Breslau a priority.  We are one of the fasted growing settlement areas in Ontario and it is about time we start getting treated like one.

PS. Stay tuned because this party is just getting started and you can expect more posts in the coming weeks.