Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Selling Parkland a Township of Woolwich thing - Victoria Glen

While researching specific historical Township of Woolwich policy a friend came across a parkland battle between the Township of Woolwich and residents. I am referring to a battle over about three acres of the park in the area of Synder Avenue, Dunke Street and Victoria Glen Street in Elmira.  The image above is a recent google street view of the area.  The comparisons between the battle for Victoria Glen and our fight for Breslau Memorial are scary similar.

The township was contemplating surplussing a part of these lands for the construction of a subdivision.  I was able to find a blog entitled Preserve Victoria Glen Park, that supporters of the park were maintaining to convince the township that the short term gain of money was not worth the long term loss of this space. I should note that the Township Council at the time were: Councillor Sandy Shantz, Councillor Murray Martin, Mayor Wm. L. (Bill) Strauss, Councillor Mark Bauman, Councillor Ruby Weber.

The following are quotes published in the Woolwich Observer that discuss this situation. I have pulled a few quotes from each article if you don't have the time to read them all.

Residents unite to save Victoria Glen - June 19, 2009
  • “It’s a valuable resource. It’s not the money that’s the value, it’s the forest, the green space,”

Sale of parkland to fund township’s building blitz - June 26, 2009
  • “We are the keepers of this land, and we’re doing a poor job of it,” said Ken Reger, who has lived within sight of this area for his entire 76 years.
  • “As someone else said, ‘surplus green space’ is an oxymoron.”

Resistance called for when change isn’t for the better - June 26, 2009
  • “ "Potential" looked a whole lot more like "certain" at the revelation Woolwich is counting on the development of the land to pay for its aggressive capital spending.”
  • “But not all change is for the better, and there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia in good measure. The people who realize those facts are the ones lined up to oppose Woolwich’s plans for Victoria Glen.”

Woolwich to borrow $3.72 million for new buildings - October 2, 2009
  • “The only remaining building project, the Breslau community centre, is expected to have no impact on borrowing or other financing arrangements. Just under construction, the $2.2-million facility received a joint federal-provincial grant that covers two-thirds of the cost. The township’s share will be covered through development charges collected on new construction and from money raised by the community.”

Showdown looms over Victoria Glen development plan - October 30, 2009
  • “We’re very disappointed,” said Elmira resident Cheryl Fisher in an interview this week. “It seems the money is more important than preserving this area.”
  • “David Brenneman, Woolwich’s chief administrative officer, called the plan a fair compromise, turning 20 per cent of the park into needed cash while helping the township meet provincial requirements for infilling projects rather than so-called greenfield development.”
  • “It’s not just Victoria Glen – it could be any park in town. We have to fight for our green space,” said Orr.
  • “They keep going on that ‘it’s only 20 per cent.’ It’s not. It’s much more than that.”

Park debate shape of things to come - October 30, 2009
  • “Who’s to say future needs for cash won’t be addressed by the sale of assets?”

You can fight city hall … And win - November 13, 2009
  • “The end was something of an anticlimax, but residents went away happy Tuesday night as Woolwich council scrapped a proposal to build a residential subdivision in a portion of Elmira’s Victoria Glen Park.”
  • “Councillors did not deliberate for long before voting unanimously to drop the proposal”

Securing Elmira’s Victoria Glen as green space
  • “With this transfer also comes the promise that the two parcels – which are currently zoned as residential – will be rezoned as open space along with the rest of the seven-acre park to effectively protect it from any future development.”
  • CAO David Brenneman after the decision to scrap the project.
  • “For Orr and Cowan, the message sent to the rest of the region by Elmira’s decision to put the interests of its citizens over the almighty dollar by protecting the forest and the green space is an important one, particularly given the township’s recent movement towards planting more trees, not cutting them down.”
  • “I hope that this is an inspiring thing for other people and organizations. There is strength in numbers and if enough people believe in it and come together, that’s how things change in the world.”

Back to Breslau

I was enlightened by reading these stories and I am more than happy with how these residents came together to fight for this space.  I was enlightened because I had no idea that this fight was going on, we as a township need to learn more about each other.  We can't complain about Elmira until we take the time to understand the issues they are dealing with.  The purpose of this post is to connect our struggle with theirs, they won against the shortsightedness of easy money and it looks like we will face the opposite result.  I sincerely hope that in the future when the next group of residents takes on short sighted politicians the words that I have written here and the words written by Preserve Victoria Glen Park will give them direction and hope.

As a Breslau resident you should receive a written notice about the intent to declare 4 acres of Breslau Memorial Park surplus.  This is a required step in order to sell the land to the WCDSB.  Normally this notice is only sent to homes near the affected area.  However, Councillor Bauman requested that this notice be sent to everyone in the settlement area of Breslau.  This will be your last chance to voice your opposition.  Victoria Glen was saved because of sheer numbers, we need to have a significant response to that notice.  That response needs to be from new people and from more people, if you have not made your voice heard, that notice will be your chance (contact the township council).

Back to the Woolwich Councillors

So now this brings me to my conclusion, I am very interested to ask the following to Mayor Shantz, Councillor Bauman and Councillor Martin:
Did you get the Victoria Glen park wrong?  Has the years since 2009 made you rethink that project and wish that you would have made an alternate decision?

Councillor Martin likes to remind us about the Wal-Mart decision, and the Race Track decision.  Why has he not mentioned the Victoria Glen decision?  A decision made unanimously by Councillors to scrap this plan that has the highest parallels to our situation.

1 comment:

  1. I am just sick that this is still an issue and has not been resolved. We need Green space, our park, the area that brings a community together. They can build the damn school in (from what I've heard) alternative locations. Heck, they could keep it in Maryhill and expand on the current school since they have the ample land there. It makes me sick when politicians make decisions based on money rather than what is best for a community and what the community actually wants. Those in favour of the school going on our parkland, I don't think they have fully thought out the ramifications of this ordeal. It's 4 acres now .. but what about down the road? Soon, more houses will be built where there is a forest like/pond setting. On the Riverland side of Breslau, the community centre greenspace will be all we have left that is "green." Would the Thomas Filed side of Breslau want this concrete building/portables put on their park? There is land on that side of Breslau. I just feel this is "give an inch and they'll take a mile."