Blue Mountains Council has suspended Events for Life’s search for a new permanent home.
At its Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 27, council rejected a report from CAO Shawn Everitt recommending that the city enter into negotiations with Events for Life, an organization that provides programs and support activities for adults with disabilities. special needs, to take over a piece of municipal property on Peel Street as a potential new permanent home for the organization’s facilities.
If built, the new facility would host Events for Life programming, which is currently offered at two locations: a local church and private property. There would be no residential or housing elements to the project.
The motion recommended by the Director General was not even brought to the council table for debate since it was not seconded. Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Andrea Matrosovs, had to take the unusual step of proposing the resolution when none of the other five councilors did so.
Instead, the board passed a resolution to direct staff to go back to the drawing board and look at all possible properties in Thornbury as potential sites for Lifetime events.
The CAO report was the hot topic on the agenda of the meeting. The council chambers gallery was filled with observers, many of whom applauded when speakers supporting Events for Life addressed the council. Several members of the public expressed support for the concept. Council also received correspondence and comments from the public concerned about the proposal.
The complex status of the Peel Street property complicated the whole matter. The eight-acre property is owned by the city, but is currently home to the private Cameron Shores Tennis Club. The tennis club had previously contacted the council about continuing to use the property in the future.
In June, the council requested a staff report on the future of the property as it relates to tennis facilities on the grounds – as the city has money in its budget to build new tennis courts. This report has not yet been presented.
Meanwhile, Events for Life contacted the city in August about acquiring city property for a new home. At the time, the board asked staff to work with the organization on possible sites and report back in the future.
In his report, Everitt suggested the city enter into a municipal investment agreement with Events for Life for the property. Under such an agreement, the city would continue to own the land and Events for Life would lease the property to the city for its new facility. The property was identified as the preferred location due to its proximity to Thornbury, being large enough to accommodate Events for Life’s planned building, and the fact that construction would be possible within two years.
The sticking point for several councilors was the lack of clarity on potential future recreational uses of the Peel Street land. Throughout the discussion of the report, property potentially used for new tennis courts was mentioned by council members.
“There are a number of different interests on this land,” the councilor said. Paula Hope. “There are other communities that are interested in these lands. »
After the board’s vote, Barb Weeden, executive director of Events for Life, expressed disappointment in the board’s decision.
“I see this as a step backwards,” she said, noting that she understands the council’s concerns about potential recreational uses of the property and has expressed interest in collaborating with the city on other uses possible of the property. “It’s something we could work on together.”
Weeden said she feared the decision would delay Events for Life’s efforts to find a new home.
“This only delays our process. We know it will take a few years for us to be available,” she said.
Bordignon was frustrated by the vote.
“I am disappointed that the first motion was not adopted,” he said after the final vote. “This is something we need to do as a community.”
Everitt estimated the subsequent report requested by the board would take several months. The city manager noted that the board’s meeting schedule for the year is coming to a close and the 2024 budget process will begin soon. He said he would aim to report back to council on the Events for Life issue by the end of the first quarter of 2024.
The decision made by the council is not final, as it was made in committee of the whole. The Council will make its final decision at its next meeting on December 18.
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