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  • Writer's pictureThe Low Down

Expropriating soccer fields ‘simply not right’

As a Chelsea resident, I am extremely proud of the engagement of all residents in community life. I am especially proud of all the amazing community spaces we have built, not by relying on municipal initiatives but by being the genesis and funders of these projects.  Chelsea citizens have built this community. 

This is why I am so appalled by the municipality’s choice of charity-owned lands (Chelsea Foundation soccer field-plus) for our new French school. This is one initiative they had to undertake, and they couldn’t manage to do it without stepping on the visionary work of Chelsea citizens just 20 years before them – work that foresaw the need to safeguard a large space in the village core as a community hub for recreational, cultural and leisure activities before development took up all the space. It is simply not right.

Add to this our current tax hike and cut to important services and I have to question why the municipality is not willing to revisit this terrible decision since the Meredith Centre soccer fields and Cargo lands are the most expensive of all the potential sites – and not by a small margin (based on MLS valuations and market value assessments). 

The municipality has responded “we had no choice,” but how can we be expected to believe this when the tender went out for the building only eight days after the municipality found out it didn’t own the soccer fields? Yes, you’re reading this right – the current municipal council (Enrico Valente exempted) all believed that the municipality was the owner of the soccer fields up until Sept. 6 and the CSSPO (school board) went out to tender on the building on Sept. 14. This means that during all the planning negotiations with the CSSPO, the municipality thought it owned the lands.

I am willing to acknowledge that there are criteria from the school board that are difficult to meet in Chelsea, but again I have to ask, how much work was really done to find a solution, when I have seen in writing a statement from a councillor who acknowledged that no cost analysis of different site options was ever conducted? In addition, no matter how difficult the criteria, the CSSPO and municipality could jointly apply to the Ministry of Education to ask for an exemption or modification of one or more of the criteria. An easy one to point out would be “current” access of the site to a municipal water system. This criteria clearly didn’t stop the building of schools in smaller rural communities, in addition to the fact that any of the alternate sites for the school are within 1.5 kilometres of the current water and sewer system, and even the Foundation soccer fields are not “currently” hooked up. 

Because we care about our community assets and about tax dollars being used appropriately, we must demand a new site for the school be found. The decision to place the new French school on the Chelsea Foundation lands is a mistake and not one council should continue to double down on.

Sabrina Howe has been a Chelsea resident for 23 years. She is a current member of Partage Chelsea Share and a former Chelsea Foundation and Soccer Chelsea board member.


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