Amid opposition from several community members, town council approved the rezoning of an area of parkland on William Street for housing.
William Street Park.
A portion of William Street Park has been rezoned for housing.
Cody Storm Cooper/North Star
Although, it was reiterated many times during a recent meeting that the existing park on William Street, adjacent to the three proposed residential sites. would remain as is. Concerns over any disturbance were voiced during a public meeting held at council’s September 4 meeting.
Malcolm Kirk, who lives next to the proposed site, cautioned council on making any rash decisions.
“(The property) was originally a 66-foot road allowance that went down from William Street, down to the waterfront,” Kirk told council on September 4. “It was basically a road allowance with no road and no place to go. So the Town of Parry Sound put some playground equipment on it and, over the years, the usage of that strip of land kind of overlapped over on to my grandfather’s property and people kind of filtered over and got used to using it. The mayor of Parry Sound at the time, who happened to be Wilford Hall, went to my grandfather and asked him if he would be interested in selling some of that property for the use of a park and they came to an agreement and it was purchased by the Town of Parry Sound.”
Kirk said if he could turn back the hands of time and write a cheque to the town of the amount of money his grandfather received for the property, he would.
“(The property) is not best suited for building. I didn’t say it was impossible. It would be difficult and expensive to do it and to do it right. You have an area where you are increasing the land usage and you’re proposing to sell off the parkland. It’s kind of like selling the horse in order to get money to buy hay – what’s the point? If you’re going to increase the density of people there you need more parkland, not less. I think you should think, very, very seriously, about what you are doing here. It’s not suited for anything other than parkland and we should be very, very careful about what happens. This is land that can never be replaced, or recovered. There are municipalities in this country that are green with envy over the parkland and the beautiful countryside that the Town of Parry Sound owns for parks. So be careful. Don’t sell it off.”
Following Kirk’s statements, Iain Laing, town director of community development, read letters from the public, also opposing the development.
At its meeting last Tuesday, council voted in favour of rezoning the property that will create three residential lots on the unused portion of the parkland.
Prior to its passing Tuesday evening, Coun. Bonnie Keith spoke out against the rezoning.
“I think we’re really lucky in that we are in a biosphere area and that I think what can happen is one may take for granted the aspect that we have these things in our community,” said Keith. “It seems to me that having more green places in a community is not necessarily a bad thing, but is a good thing. We don’t really think about it until something’s gone. Personally, I think we should be taking a long-rage view on this and remembering the legacy that we are leaving behind. I appreciate the value of a dollar very well, but sometimes I think you have to put the value of a dollar today aside to what your vision is for the future. I think as Parry Sound we consider ourselves as a jewel and yet, it seems to me with a jewel that has a number of facets and we want all facets on all sides to be beautiful, so therefore I cannot support the bylaw or resolution.”
The bylaw to amend a former bylaw on the property was carried, with Coun. Keith voting against.
Coun. Keith Saulnier said he would like to see just two lots, with the third lot be part of the currentpark and a larger buffer
“I realize we need money and we need housing but we also need parks,” said Saulnier. “I want to meet half way on this one.”
Laing said it wouldn’t be possible.
“We consulted with our engineers as far as access to these lots and, as you probably recognize there is a brow of a hill on William Street at that location,” said Laing. “Our engineer recommended that access to these lots be obtained to align with the intersection of Isabella Street and William Street. That third lot is the only place you can get that.”
Coun. Dan McCauley reminded council that the current park would remain untouched.
“The park area that’s there is not changing whatsoever, the little beach area is staying the same, the playground area is staying the same, the driveway area leading to the park is staying the same, the large area where the trees are, some of the area is staying as a buffer,” said McCauley.
Council approved the resolution, with Keith voting against and Saulnier abstaining.