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  • Madeline Kerr

Local soccer club kicked by Chelsea land grab

Chelsea is moving ahead with plans to acquire a charity-owned soccer field in order to build a new school, and at least one sports club anticipates being impacted by the move.

The municipality has hired lawyers to begin the process of expropriating four acres of land in Chelsea village, which includes a soccer field used by Soccer des Collines, an organization that provides youth soccer for hundreds of families across Cantley, Val-des-Monts, La Pêche and Chelsea.

Administrator for Soccer des Collines, Jordi Pardo Pardo, recently told the Low Down that, while he is aware the municipality has offered to eventually replace the soccer field somewhere else in the village, for now his organization will feel the effects of losing this infrastructure.

“With our current level of activities, we can make do to keep our activities with one less field,” he explained. “However, it will be almost impossible to increase the capacity in the summer to accommodate all the new families that are moving to Chelsea. [One] obvious impact is to have less field availability. Another is more indirect: By increasing the use of other fields, it is likely the quality of the terrain will also suffer from the most intensive use of the other fields.”

Chelsea Foundation president Fiona Duguid told the Low Down that, since 1998, registration data suggests that an average of 556 Chelsea soccer players used three of the Foundation’s five fields in the village. This number does not reflect the frequent use of the fields for summer camps, tournaments and other events, Duguid explained.

The field that the municipality will acquire is known as “number four” and is the second largest of all the fields that Soccer Des Collines uses in Chelsea, including one in Hollow Glen.

The municipality has said that their “hands are tied” when it comes to expropriating the Foundation’s land. According to the local school service centre (CSSPO), 300 more children will require placement in a French school by 2026. Bill 40, which passed in 2020, requires municipalities to provide land to school service centres free of charge. Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard has said that the chosen area, which includes the soccer field and parking lot owned by the Chelsea Foundation, is the only place in the village deemed viable to build the school according to criteria set out by CSSPO and the municipality.

Chelsea municipal spokesperson Maude Prud’homme-Séguin recently told the Low Down, “very early on in the process, the municipality offered to relocate the soccer field, at its own expense, on one of its properties, in order to reach a win/win agreement, which the Foundation refused.”

The land in question was part of a purchase the Chelsea Foundation made two decades ago using donations from local families. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised over the years to build and maintain the area as a hub for recreation in Chelsea.

‘Protect our soccer fields’ — petition against land confiscation garners support

On Nov. 28, an open letter addressed to the municipality of Chelsea presented the results of a petition that ran from Oct. 28 until Nov. 2, entitled “Protect our soccer fields”, which garnered 298 signatures. The letter was co-signed by Chelsea Foundation founding president Marc Allain, former president of Soccer Chelsea Alanna Keenan and former Chelsea Foundation board member Sabrina Howe.

In the letter, Allain, Keenan and Howe wrote: “While we unequivocally support the building of a new school, we are appalled that the municipality and the CSSPO have chosen to locate it on community recreational lands belonging to the Chelsea Foundation.”

The letter goes on to state that the land was originally acquired by the Chelsea Foundation two decades ago in order “​​to meet the long-term recreational needs of the community, in perpetuity,” adding, “the integrity of the property should be protected, not carved up. Furthermore, taking land from a charitable organization sets a deplorable and very costly precedent.”

The letter concludes by stating that, “the lack of communication with the Chelsea Foundation has created turmoil in our community and does not meet the standard of environmentally and socially progressive governance from our institutions that Chelsea residents expect and deserve.”


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