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Town gathering input on new parks master plan

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s process towards a new parks master plan continued last week.

Part of the process was a public meeting last Wednesday night at the Libro Centre, which manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said drew about 30 people. Belanger said consultants Steve Langlois and Joannah Campbell went over the process and the recommendations that are in the report.

In all, there are 71 recommendations. Some deal with upgrades and expanded services at some parks, while other recommendations deal with how repairs and maintenance should be funded.

Among the recommendations are adding baseball diamonds to the Libro Centre, adding a soccer shelter to the Libro Centre, remove deteriorated backstops at Anderdon and Warren Mickle Parks, investigate outdoor fitness equipment at an existing park, upgrade playground surfacing to meet current accessibility standards, continue to replace traditional playground equipment with “creative and challenging” play structures and providing playgrounds within 500 metres of residents within urban areas.

The replacement of the track at Centennial Park is not recommended.

“The plan has provided an audit of the condition of all of our parks,” Belanger told the RTT Thursday morning. “It maps out the locations and comes forward with over 70 recommendations.”

Moving more sports fields and features to the Libro Centre is a possibility under the plan, she stated, with additional amenities to possibly include a second splash pad, basketball courts and a relocated skateboard park.

Belanger noted that “there are recommendations that are park specific but there are overarching recommendations also.”

Under the plan, parks would be classified as destination, athletic, leisure, heritage, civic, natural and linear, the latter including trails and greenways. A natural park is described as municipal open space and “natural properties used for conservation and passive recreational activities.”

A public survey was taken with 120 responses, Belanger added, and there were six organizations that were met with. There are opportunities for redevelopment of existing assets, she continued.

Belanger said the full draft of the parks master plan is on both the town’s website and the town’s “Talk the ‘Burg” site and public feedback is encouraged. The town hopes to have people respond by May 23 with a final draft plan to go before town council June 11.

Consultants from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants conduct a public meeting May 9 at the Libro Centre regarding the draft parks master plan. (Submitted photo)

There are also recommendations that deal with the Belle Vue property and the former Duffy’s location, but Belanger noted there will be more public consultation on those projects.

Pertaining to Belle Vue, the town is hosting two public consultation meetings on consecutive Tuesday nights regarding the future of the Dalhousie St. property. Those meetings “will be held to assess future opportunities, identify potential uses and solicit public input on proposed concepts for the renowned heritage site.”

The Belle Vue meetings are May 29 and June 5 at the Libro Centre, both scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Councillor Diane Pouget brought up the future of Centennial Park at Monday night’s council meeting, specifically the 12 acres that was not purchased by the Greater Essex County District School Board for the new public high school.

According to Pouget, the park was removed from the town’s inventory of parkland and questioned

agreements with the public school board to use the site. She also pointed out the park is named for former mayor Murray Smith, calling him “a great mayor” and stating he made many contributions towards the park’s development.

CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo disagreed with Pouget’s assessment of the status of the 12 acres. Although listed as “N/A” in the study, Miceli said when the draft plan was being written, it was not known by the consultants how much of the park would be sold.

“It does not mean it has been removed,” said Miceli, adding that council wants “opportunities” for the site explored.

Miceli doubted the public board would challenge the previous agreement about park usage, since the board is the purchaser of the adjoining lands, adding that a football field is no longer planned for the remaining acres anyway.

Pouget pressed on, stating the public has a right to know what is going on with that land and whether the town is going to get rid of it. Miceli repeated that nothing has been removed from the town’s parks inventory and that “it’s always up to council to do something with parkland. If anything does happen with the 12 acres, council will make that decision and make a responsible decision.”

DiCarlo questioned how many past bylaws Pouget was going to read, adding that issues surrounding the 12 acres was addressed in-camera.

“It will be addressed by council at a later date,” the mayor said of the 12 acres, adding Pouget was starting to get into issues that were discussed in-camera.

Duffy’s sale to close Feb. 14

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town of Amherstburg will officially become the owners of the Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn property on Valentine’s Day.

The deal, first announced last September, will close Feb. 14 and as part of the environmental conditions, an amended price was agreed to. CAO John Miceli did not disclose what the new purchase price will be but said the town will be paying less than the original $1.675 million price.

Miceli said the new purchase price and the fact the town has to be dealing with the environmental matters will all fall within the original $1.675 million figure. He added that the town will not be out any extra money.

“I haven’t put the taxpayers at risk at all,” said Miceli.

As part of the condition of the sale, Miceli said there was a Phase I and a Phase II environment assessment placed on the property. Based on his prior experience dealing with waterfront lands in Windsor, Miceli said he wasn’t surprised when issues arose at the Duffy’s site.

The town has agreed to purchase Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn for $1.675 million.

The town has agreed to purchase Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn for $1.675 million.

“I was expecting to come across something,” he said, adding that is why the environmental conditions were placed on the property.

Miceli believed that many waterfront properties could have environmental issues, pointing out the fact that coal was formerly stored on the waterfront.

“You have to deal with it differently now than in the old days,” said Miceli.

Once the town officially becomes the owner of the property, the plan is to tear both the restaurant and motel down. Miceli said his preference is to have it gone sooner rather than later and believes town council feels the same way.

“I think council is excited to get it down,” he said. “I think we’ll move on that when we close on the property.”

Miceli hopes the restaurant and hotel will be gone by the time any Canada 150 celebrations come to Amherstburg.

The town has already unveiled some proposals for the Dalhousie St. property, including an amphitheatre, a public marina, a service buildings with washrooms and concessions, plazas and room for tents and food trucks. The CAO stated there will be opportunities for the public to have their say on what they would like to see at the site.

“We definitely will be having public consultation this year once we get ownership of the property,” said Miceli.

Plans starting to emerge for the Duffy’s site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Now that town council has voted to go ahead with the purchase of the Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn site, plans are emerging as to what could end up there.

The town has conceptual drawings which indicate a marina, boat trailer parking, amphitheater, plazas, wharf complete with docking facilities for tall ships and cruise ships and a food truck parking area are among the potential plans for the property. There would also be three areas on the site suitable for large tents should the town allow an event there.

The site would be fully accessible.

CAO John Miceli said the plans have been on his mind for quite some time.

“I brought it to council in-camera May 24,” said Miceli. “That was the first time I brought it to council for discussion.”

The town regularly hears comments about amenities they currently don’t have, with Miceli using the example of the lack of fishing space currently along the Navy Yard Park shoreline, and believes it will address those concerns also.

Miceli said administration wanted to give council an idea of what the land could be used for and the “order of magnitude” it faced if the town was successful in purchasing the Duffy’s property. The town is going through an Official Plan review, he added, and he believes this property could be a catalyst for downtown development.

“Duffy’s, in my opinion, is a strategic acquisition for the town,” the chief administrative officer stated.

Calling it an “economic driver for the downtown core,” Miceli envisions surrounding properties being developed and other development encouraged.

“It will spur development for sure,” he said.

Miceli said it is the town’s job to make the town enticing to develop in.

“Our job is to create the right conditions,” he said. “I think this is another tool in the toolbox to develop the downtown.”

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Miceli also envisions people strolling through Navy Yard Park, visiting downtown businesses all the while maintaining the existing state of the current passive park, unless council determines otherwise.

“King’s Navy Yard Park is passive yet a number of residents want more things happening in the downtown core,” said Miceli. “This is a tremendous way of adding something and respecting the passive nature of King’s Navy Yard Park.”

While town council voted 6-1 to proceed with the purchase of the Dalhousie St. restaurant, motel and marina property, the $1.675 million sale isn’t complete yet. Miceli estimates it will be December or early January when the deal will go through as there are still conditions that have to be cleared up, including an environmental assessment due to the fact there are fuel tanks on the property as well as an appraisal.

The estimate for the plans, as they stand now, sit at approximately $7 million. Miceli said that cost could be paid for in a number of ways, including government grants, sponsorships, fundraising, public/private partnerships or other methods. He said council will be given a full report on how to finance the proposal once more information is gathered.

That information will include public input, as Miceli said they will be going to the constituents to gauge their reaction to what is being proposed. The plans could be altered by town council depending on what council and the public would like to see, he acknowledged.

“This is the plan we have come up with conceptually,” Miceli said. “Do you like it? Do you not like it? Is there any changes you would like to see?”

Town council voted to proceed with the purchase at the Sept. 12 meeting at the same meeting where they decided not to move forward with the Belle Vue purchase. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo called the Duffy’s purchase “an investment in the municipality” and said they had to act while the property was still on the market.

“It’s an issue where you don’t get to pick the timing,” he said after the meeting.

DiCarlo told the River Town Times Thursday morning he believed the concept that was presented to council was a good one.

“I think the concept is a great idea,” said DiCarlo. “From the people who have seen it, the feedback has been positive.”

The mayor emphasizes that “it is a concept” and that the residents will have an opportunity to share their views on it, something that will likely not occur until the new year after the deal closes.

“We’ll have an opportunity for public input,” said DiCarlo. “It is a great starting point.”

The concept drawings helped “seal the deal” for council to agree to the purchase, DiCarlo believes, and that the price and business plan also factored into the decision.

“I love it,” he said of the concept plan. “I think it’s a great plan.”

DiCarlo said he has heard from few people who disapproved of the deal and that he has received e-mails, Facebook messages and phone calls from people who like the town’s direction with regards to the property.

“I’ve gotten almost zero negative feedback,” the mayor stated.

According to the town, the current debt is just over $39.5 million and is expected to rise to $42.4 million by the end of 2017 with the forcemain for the Edgewater Sewage Diversion project, Texas Road and Meloche Road factored in. The town projects the debt to drop from there, with the projected debt by 2023 being nearly $27.6 million. Miceli said that doesn’t factor in any plans for the Duffy’s property as it is not finalized what the redevelopment will be and thus, the payments for the redevelopment have not been determined.

Miceli added the purchase of the property will come from reserves.

“It’s a tremendous asset to say we have acquired this tremendous property and paid for it in cash,” said Miceli. “I think we are headed into very exciting times for the town of Amherstburg and I’m excited to be part of it.”