While the turnout was relatively modest, sentiment at Saturday’s rally against the sale of a significant chunk of Breslau’s Memorial Park for a new school was passionate and one-sided.
Some 60 people and a number of young children came out to the Breslau Community Centre for the “Save Our Park” event to show their opposition to the proposed deal between the township and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.
Some 125 ballots were cast – organizers said some people voted but didn’t stay for the speeches or the group picture – with 120 votes against the plan, three in support and two undecided.
Breslau resident and business owner Bill Southern plans to present the results to council later this month.
“It’s very clear that the township council has a very different opinion of this proposal than the residents that live here in Breslau,” he said at the rally. “There are a lot of residents who feel that this process has not been transparent. And it is also very clear that most residents don’t oppose a school. I have not come across anyone who opposed the actual school, they just oppose where it is going to be built; They just don’t want it on our parkland.”
The deal would see four acres of the park sold to the WCDSB as a replacement site for Maryhill’s St. Boniface Catholic Elementary School, which the board put on the chopping block in 2013.
The township would in turn use the $1.75 million windfall on upgrades to the park and community centre. As well, the school would house a new 5,000 square-foot library to be operated by the Region of Waterloo.
A shared-use agreement for the community centre, gym and playing fields between the township and the school board would also be set up, providing for additional upgrades.
It all amounts to a net loss for the people of Breslau who enjoy using the parkland and the community centre and have contributed to its development over the years, say critics.
“If the school closes in Maryhill for whatever reason, it is not the responsibility of the residents of Breslau,” Southern said. “During the building proposals several years ago for the Riverland and
Hopewell Heights (subdivisions), it showed land designated for future schools. The fact that the region and the township could not come to any agreement over the reason and purpose of the future usage of this land is not our problem, that’s the region and the township’s problem.”
Breslau resident Blake Kennedy also spoke at the rally, outlining a number of major concerns with the project.
“This park is for the whole community and it was developed through donations and the township did not contribute to the this community centre,” he said. “One of the things we have to address is that by selling part of this park off for a school that will only serve a small segment of the population, that is not in keeping with our values. … This should remain a facility for everyone.”
He added, “My other reason for objecting to this is the deal itself. When you think about what is being done in terms of the sale of the park, these four acres and change are being sold at well below market value. And does anybody know how much the lease agreement for (the community centre) between the township and the Catholic school board? Nothing, and that is a concern.”
Response from village residents has been largely negative since the plans were revealed in February. Most are fine with a new Catholic school in Breslau, they just don’t want it at the expense of their parkland.
For its part, the township has set up a taskforce to gather public input and report back to council by the end of June.