A large group of Breslau residents hoping council would do right by their community left township hall disappointed Tuesday night.
With Woolwich moving to declare as surplus a four-acre portion of Breslau Memorial Park – the land is to be sold to the Catholic school board – residents opposed to the project made an impassioned, reasoned bid to get councillors to reconsider their stance. To no avail, however, as the split remained 4-2 in favour of the selloff, Couns. Patrick Merlihan and Larry Shantz opposed to the sale.
The Waterloo Catholic District School Board will pay the township $1.75-million in a deal that would allow for upgrades to the park and community centre, as well as community access to new facilities, including a 5,000-square-foot library operated by the Region of Waterloo.
The plan calls for the construction of a new building that would provide washrooms, a concession stand and house the mechanical plant for a community-built splash pad.
Originally rejecting the deal Sept. 29, council turned around the following week and reversed course, approving the sale of community parkland. On Tuesday night, however, the vote remained the same, sending resident streaming out of council chambers uttering condemnations of the township, council and a process many voices called rigged from the beginning.
In fact, the residents pulled no punches as speaker after speaker told councillors why the parkland should be preserved, urging them to think of the long-term good of the community rather than the short-term cash grab.
Matthew VanderMeer, for instance, warned that by going ahead with the deal, the township would be jeopardizing the volunteer base in Breslau, as many of those most actively involved took part in fundraising for the community centre and making it work.
“This is a deathblow to the rekindled volunteer spirit in Breslau.”
Fellow Breslau resident Bill Smith, who is organizing a pledge drive to show residents are serious about fundraising, noted that many of those most involved in the community are opposed to the selloff, while those in favour have been mostly removed from volunteer activities. He noted that approval of the land sale will be seen as further proof the township doesn’t listen to the residents.
Rich Mader, noting half-jokingly that he’d like to get back the money he donated to the community centre build, was more blunt about council’s stance.
“This is wrong. Everybody knows it’s wrong. Please do something about it,” he said.
Many speakers pointed out the township has allowed existing infrastructure in the park to fall apart, questioning who’ll look after all the shiny new toys to be installed after the $1.75 million has been spent. Councillors who voted in favour had no answers, however.