A group of green space advocates in Fenelon Falls got their wish on council this week, stopping the development of Juniper Street parks.
Two MPs spoke passionately about the land at the regular meeting of Kawartha Lakes City Council on July 19, asking council to keep the land in its natural state. Doug Dickerson argued that not only should the land on Juniper Street be kept as a park for the enjoyment of the community, including the Langdon Public School next door, but also that the village of Fenelon Falls simply has no not the infrastructure for the previously proposed development on the land.
“Inaction to increase sewer capacity over the past 22 years has prevented Fenelon Falls from growing and enjoying the promised benefits that should have come from the merger,” Dickerson told the board.
Fellow MP Rick Chartier noted that a recent day with heavy rain saw raw sewage dumped into the Fenelon River thanks to the village’s already stretched capacity, not to mention crumbling roads, lack of public transport and the lack of health care resources to go around as is.
A petition circulated by Juniper Street parks advocates has garnered the support of more than 80% of the village’s voting-age residents, according to Dickerson.
“Today is your opportunity to make the right decision and re-establish the designation of the lands as environmental parks and leave your legacy for future generations to come,” added Chartier.
The staff report presented to council shared the same sentiment, recommending that council rescind the declaration that Juniper Street Park was surplus and the bylaw approving its sale, after city staff and a developer seeking to build two Affordable apartment buildings on the ground failed to reach an agreement.
“Staff recommend that the declaration of surplus on the property be revoked until there is sufficient service capacity for the property. In the meantime, Realty Services will consider the property part of offsetting the city’s carbon footprint,” the report, written by legal expert Laura Carnochan, says.
“It will take it off the market as surplus property,” Mayor Andy Letham explained of the motion passed by council.
“I think it has been a very controversial issue. I feel bad for people who were trying to do something right by building a badly needed apartment complex. There are water and sewage issues at Fenelon that need to be recognized, that need to be addressed, but this property in particular, the people in the area were very passionate about it. I think taking it off the surplus list gives people an opportunity to try and, if they want, do something else with it,” Ward 3 Councilor Doug Elmslie added.
Although council’s motion stalled ahead of Dickerson’s request that the community commit to having the Juniper Street land designated as a park “in perpetuity”, Ward 5 Councilor Pat Dunn requested a request additional time for staff to consider the financial feasibility of improving the park space. for the community to return to the council in the first quarter of 2023.