FOR THE GAZETTE
Further discussion surrounding a Wellington Secondary Plan has been tabled to January 2022 after contention regarding the potential relocation of the existing Wellington park facilities.
The matter was discussed at Tuesday’s regular council meeting at Lehigh Arena and in the Development Services Department report presented by Planning Manager Michael Michaud it was noted there is an opportunity to create a “district park centered around the Lehigh Arena.”
“By centralizing larger scale municipal recreational facilities there becomes a synergy int he provision of services where cost savings could be utilized,” the report stated.
Michaud explained in larger municipalities, those communities tend to group many of their recreational facilities in one area and allow for such ancillary amenities as canteens and washrooms to be centrally located.
“Nothing is solid. There is an opportunity to put it all on one side of the street but it doesn’t have to take place. It doesn’t have to take place for five years, it doesn’t have to take place for 20 years, it doesn’t have to take place at all,” he emphasized. “We still have a Recreation Master Plan to create.”
The plan, he said, would include information on land uses, funding and a detailed look at what recreation options will be included.
John Allison along with his wife, Jane, of the Prince Edward County Minor Baseball Association said there has been no public consultation on the issue.
“It seems to us you are just trying to make a quick buck and don’t care about our kids’ baseball. I believe the field was donated by Mr. Lipson to the village and we put the first softball diamond in in 1970. A lot of taxpayers have grown up playing ball in Wellington and now their kids are playing,” Allison said.
He said volunteers have spent countless hours helping make the field that is there today.
“Out of town teams rave about the field for such a small town. To not allow any public input seems awfully shady to me and we are asking council members to send this proposal back to the drawing board.”
Matt Ronan, Prince Edward County resident and member of the association, said he was shocked to learn the secondary plan discussion included a plan to sell the Wellington park land for commercial development.
“I am enraged that a decision that council is being asked to make is being done without engaging the parks stakeholders and the community. We have over 200 youth registered to play baseball in the park. They bike to their little league games. We have pickleball and tennis players that walk on the sidewalks to these courts,” he explained. “We built it, we maintain it, we fundraise for it. Jane and John Allison spent countless hours making it the crown jewel of our community.
Ronan added the current Wellington hub is accessible to youth by sidewalk and is a green space in the middle of what has become an “overpopulated, congested Wellington.”
“Moving a green space for commercial development is wrong. It’s as clear as that: it’s wrong. Creating a Wellington Secondary Plan that moves a park that serves youth without any consultation to the volunteer organizations is, in the least, disheartening,” he said.
He posed the question: “Is there not a Prince Edward County policy to engage the community in public consultation before moving forward with such a drastic, autocratic decision that involves our County youth?”
Coun. Brad Nieman put forward a motion to defer the topic to the next available Committee of the Whole meeting for further discussion, which he said would allow two weeks for public feedback following the meeting.
The deferral passed in a 7 to 6 recorded vote called for by Coun. Kate MacNaughton.
Councillors Bill McMahon, Brad Nieman, Phil Prinzen, Phil St. Jean, Stewart Bailey, Andreas Bolik and Jamie Forrester voted in favour of the deferral.
Councillors Kate MacNaughton, Ernie Margetson, Bill Roberts, Mike Harper, John Hirsch and Mayor Steve Ferguson opposed the deferral.
CAO Marcia Wallace confirmed the next available meeting would be January of 2022 and that deferring the discussion would not have a substantive negative impact on any of the points of interest.