A piece of land has Wellesley Township councillors looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.
The land in question is a ¾-acre parcel on the north side of Gerber Road, east of Firella creek. The property is currently zoned residential, but only a small part of the lot is above the GRCA’s floodplain level, so the owners have offered it to the township for recreation space.
Meeting Apr. 6, councillors questioned what it would cost to maintain the property and what use it could be put to.
“It’s nice to get something free, but if it’s not going to be used for anything and it’s going to cost us to maintain it, is it really free?” asked councillor Herb Neher.
The offer was made by Donna Nafziger, Gary Steckly and Sharon Horst, children of the original owner, Andy Steckly. Steckly intended to build a retirement home on the property and took out a building permit in 1989, but ill health prevented him from carrying out his plans and the permit expired in 1991.
Since then, the Grand River Conservation Authority has raised the elevation level for the floodplain, and the land no longer meets the GRCA’s residential zone requirements. The owners decided to offer the property to the township in exchange for a tax receipt “of any amount council would deem appropriate.”
Council asked staff to look into the costs of maintaining the property and developing it into a recreational area.
“If it was to be used for a picnic area, let’s say, obviously they’d need tables or portable sanitation units or we might even have to hook it into the sanitary sewer,” explained CAO Susan Duke.
There is little precedent in Wellesley for similar offers of land. While the planning act requires that developers dedicate five per cent of the land in subdivisions for parkland, the township has opted for cash in lieu of land, directing the money toward central recreation facilities.
“We haven’t gone to the lengths of having ‘parkettes’ or small areas of open space in plans of subdivision, partially because the majority of our subdivisions are surrounded by agricultural areas or they’re in close proximity to open areas, and because we’ve concentrated on providing services at one location,” Duke said. “We have not had a lot of these kinds of situations where people want to give us land.”
Councillors speculated that the land could become a trail access point some time in the future. But Duke emphasized that there are no plans to put in a trail system on private land, and there is presently no way to link it into the existing trail system.
Council will be seeking input from the Wellesley recreation services board at its next meeting, as well as consulting with the GRCA and the owners of the property.