Pat Catton

Parks committee wants remaining Centennial Park acreage put back in parkland inventory

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s parks and recreation advisory committee wants to ensure that at least part of Centennial Park remains Centennial Park.

The committee will be recommending to town council that the 12 acres of Centennial Park that wasn’t sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board return to the parks inventory. There has been concern over the fate of the land after the other 15 acres was sold to the public school board to accommodate a new high school.

The parks and recreation advisory committee met last Wednesday night in the council chambers with CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the opposite end of the chamber ready to address questions. Miceli maintained that the parks master plan, which lists Centennial Park as “N/A” by the consultants, is not finalized and “those 12 acres could be added back into the inventory.”

Councillor Diane Pouget, who is one of two council members on the committee as well as Councillor Jason Lavigne, indicated she didn’t recall any previous statements by Miceli that the 12 acres could be reinserted.

“Unless I’m deaf or hard of hearing, not once did I hear you say it could be added back into the plan,” Pouget told Miceli.

Dante Pagliaroli, who chairs the committee, noted he met with Miceli and that the town still has use of the pool until November and that there was “no plan and nothing definite” for the 12 acres on the north end of the park. Vice chair Pat Catton questioned why the 12 acres was removed from the parks inventory to begin with.

“To remove them, it seems premature,” said Catton. “I don’t understand the prematurity.”

Miceli maintained that the parks master plan remains in draft form and that it shows Amherstburg has an “abundance” of parkland. He reiterated that adding the 12 acres back into the plan “is not a problem.”

“Why take it out in the first place?” Catton pressed.

Miceli responded that the town offered land at Centennial Park and the Libro Centre for the public high school and that if there were errors made in the plan, “we’ll get them adjusted.”
Alex Smith, whose father was H. Murray Smith for whom Centennial Park was named, said he is “adamantly opposed” to any thought of getting rid of the park entirely.

Smith indicated he is in possession of bylaws and related documentation regarding the park being named for his father, a former mayor.

“If you want to test me, test me,” he said.

Smith also wanted to know who approved removing the park from the town’s inventory of parkland.

“I guess it goes to show when someone goes and does something for the town and has been gone for 21 years, you just forget about him,” he said.

Larry Bertrand worried about traffic in the area of Centennial Park when the school is built, adding he lives in the area and “I can’t back out of my driveway now.” Lavigne said the previous council identified moving recreational amenities to the Libro Centre, such as the baseball diamonds, and that it was the school board and the province that wanted Centennial Park.

“The location was chosen by the school board,” he stated, adding the town risked losing the school had they not gone along with it.

Rick Murray stated the issue was the 12 acres and the fact residents “want it back in the master plan. It should be designated as it was before.” Murray said it should stay recreational “which is what the property is designated for.”

Murray added his belief that the park should not be sold as excess land and continue as a recreational site in Murray Smith’s memory.

Lavigne said nothing has been removed and that there are no “behind the scenes” activity going on otherwise.

“If the public decides we want that as a park, no problem. No problem at all,” said Lavigne.

Pouget thanked the residents in attendance for supporting the notion to keep Centennial Park’s 12 remaining acres as parkland but Gord Freeman wondered why there was an in-camera meeting on the issue. Freeman believed that unless a sale was under discussion, the future of the park’s usage should have been done publicly.

Miceli questioned what motion Freeman was referring to and questioned where he was getting his information.

“I’m just assuming,” responded Freeman, “so I’m asking a question.”

John Corbett asked if the new high school has to expand at some point in the future, where they would expand to if the 12 acres are no longer available. He said General Amherst students have been “shortchanged” as it relates to available fields and now they would have to go to the Libro Centre.

Miceli said Centennial Park “has been mismanaged by the town for the last 40 years” and the current council wants to centralize uses at the Libro Centre.

The committee discussed possibly using the 12 acres for a splash pad, tennis courts and other features currently at Centennial Park. Lavigne said some of those could go on the high school’s property, noting the town doesn’t know the plans for the remaining 15 acres after the school itself has been built. Lavigne added that there are no plans for a track at the new school site “even if there was 100 acres.”

There is also 84 acres at the Libro Centre that can be further utilized for recreational purposes.

Public feedback gathered on proposal for Duffy’s land

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

With Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn in the process of being torn down, the town held a public consultation session to gauge what the public thinks of redevelopment plans.

The public consultation session was held last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre where people got a chance to view the renderings of the plans the town has developed for the waterfront property.

“Nothing has been set in stone,” CAO John Miceli pointed out, stating the purpose of the meeting was simply “the start of a conversation.”

The concept plans developed by the town and its consultant – Dan Krutsch of Landmark Engineering – were on display around the community room with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among the proposals put forth. Miceli said the town wanted to bring those plans to the public to see if that is what citizens want and if there are any changes desired to what has been proposed.

Duffy's consultation2WEB

Members of the public view concept drawings for what the Duffy’s property could look like during a June 15 meeting at the Libro Centre.

While additional public meetings are planned, Miceli said he would like to see the town move forward on the project later this year.

“My goal is to have it presented as part of the 2018 capital works budget,” he said.

Costs range from $5 million to $6.5 million and by moving along with the process, it allows the town to pursue grant funding. Final costs will be determined once all the components of the project are decided upon.

Timing for how fast the project will be completed centres around cash.

“It really is going to depend on funding,” he said.

Local resident Pat Catton questioned where boat trailers would park. While there is space for boat trailers on the drawings, Miceli acknowledged previous concerns about boat trailer parking and congestion when the Duffy’s boat ramp was open. There may be opportunities for boat trailer parking, though Miceli noted some opportunities were a bit farther away than the town desires.

“We’re hoping to hear from the boaters to hear what they have to say,” said Miceli.

A relocated Boblo ferry dock being included in the drawings was also a source of questions. Krutsch explained that moving it would allow for owner Dominic Amicone to be able to better develop his lands. The wharf would also help shield the dock from ice.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s  redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Pat Catton and Gord Freeman review drawings of the proposed Duffy’s
redevelopment last Thursday evening at the Libro Centre.

Catton wondered why the town would have to partner with a private property owner but Krutsch replied that there is no need to partner with anyone and that it was added in case some kind of partnership was of interest. Miceli noted preliminary talks have taken place with Amicone.

No programming decisions have been finalized, Miceli noted, adding his belief the development could boost the downtown core. It could act as a “festival plaza” and boost the area.

“This was the vision that allowed us to go ahead with acquiring the property,” said Miceli.

The town’s Official Plan calls for the acquisition of waterfront lands when they become available. He believes there will be at least an eight to 12 month approval process before anything could be developed.

Susan Whelan asked about the number of studies that have been done on the site, noting there haven’t been any major developments there for many years. Fuel was also used on site in the past, she added. She said she supported making the site beautiful and intertwining it with the neighbourhood but wanted assurances the land was checked out.

The land and existing buildings were assessed by Golder Associates, Miceli replied, and that the purchase price of the property was reduced to deal with some of the issues found.

“Most of the issues are in the older portion,” Miceli noted, in reference to the restaurant portion, which has not yet been demolished.

Food truck owner Carolyn Parent asked about such vehicles in the development, with Miceli saying his vision is for special events. Krutsch pointed out that could simply be one use of the site, with craft shows, tents and other events also possible.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the concept plans are the current ideas the town has come up with.

“This is the culmination of what we’ve been doing up to now,” he said.

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DiCarlo said there are limitations on what Navy Yard Park can be used for due to its passive nature and while there are events at Fort Malden National Historic Site of Canada, there are restrictions there too. Downtown businesses also have voiced concerns that they have difficulty pulling people from Fort Malden so having festival space downtown could translate into more businesses gaining customers.

The town wants “one fluid plan” on how to develop the area, he added. The biggest thing the mayor said he has heard is about how fast the land could be developed.

Local real estate agent Ron Deneau congratulated the town on “one of the best purchases you ever made.” He believed the land being acquired for the money the town paid for it (final price being $1.115 million) “will be looked at as one of the nicest purchases you ever made.”

Local resident Paul Pietrangelo was in favour of the development.

“I love the idea,” he said. “I think it’s beautiful.”

Pietrangelo joked that “I hope I can see it before I die.”

Noting his love of Navy Yard Park, he added the Duffy’s land would be a good complement to that.

“It’ll bring a lot of people to Amherstburg even more,” he believed.