Despite opposition, Burlington intends to pave ‘paradise’ to put up a parking lot
Published February 7, 2024 at 6:30 am
Burlington plans to push ahead and remove the track and field at Robert Bateman Community Centre to make way for additional parking spaces.
That’s the likely outcome after City councillors decided at a committee meeting this week to proceed with adding the spaces needed to accommodate future users of the community centre at 5151 New St.
Baring a change of heart by the same councillors, the parking plan is expected to be approved at a City council meeting next week.
The 329 parking spaces will come much to the dismay of nearby residents who have been trying to save the running track and the football field that remain from the days when the site was a high school.
A petition with the names of 500 people opposed to eliminating the track and field has been circulated and several others have publicly objected to the plan.
Speaking before the committee this week, former Bateman student Oubaida Ikharbine said the land as it remains is part of the fabric of the neighbourhood.
“It is a part of our community’s DNA,” Ikharbine said, “It is our duty to protect it, not to destroy it. I like many others have grown up around this communal space. It’s where I’ve spent countless hours with my friends enjoying the greenery and vibrancy of our community. Our little corner of paradise…the City has decided to make way for divisive and irreplaceable plans to build parking spaces.”
Ultimately, City councillors acknowledged they have no choice but to add the parking spaces based on the criteria that dictate land use. The City also points out that despite the loss of the track and field, there won’t be a loss of greenspace as plans call for connectivity with the remaining field and that of adjacent Frontenac Park.
Further, the City is exploring the option of another smaller track at neighbouring Ascension Elementary School.
While replacing greenspace with paved parking strikes a blow against the very core of Burlington’s political mindset, one where every blade of grass and tree trunk is considered sacred, in the end, the pressure to increase parking became a problem too big for councillors to ignore.
As well as a community centre that is expected to be well-used by residents, Bateman will also be home to paying tenants such as Brock University which has certain expectations when it comes to satisfying the needs of tuition-paying students.
A source connected to the future tenants said the university can’t run a campus if it is too difficult for students to get to class.
“These students will be coming from all over,” the source said. “They aren’t going to be walking or biking to school or taking the bus. Let’s face it, despite all of the hopes and wishful thinking, they are going to drive, like it or not, and the university needs places for them to park. Burlington wants this university so they have to make it work.”
Speaking at the committee meeting, Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman said City planners have done everything they could to minimize the impact on the greenspace, adding the community centre will be well used as will the surrounding grounds which will have a user-friendly design.
“I appreciate the folks who want to run the track and play football there…can’t do that anymore,” he said pointing out that nearby Sherwood Forest Park can be used for the same activities.
The cost for the City to buy the Bateman site and convert it into a community has been estimated at $100 million.
A staff report shows that work on the site is on schedule and on budget with phase one of the project expected to open in the fall of 2025.
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