Despite criticism from the local community, Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes says thousands of dollars have been spent renovating parks in Centretown using the cash-in-lieu parkland policy.
Holmes says $700,000 was spent on the renovation of Chaudiere Park and a further $600,000 on developing Primrose Park. The works are now almost complete with new play areas and a basketball court, all of which was funded by the cash-in-lieu policy.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Somerset Council made an offer of $4 million from their fund to landowner, Brian McGarry, to buy his funeral home parking lot on the corner of McLeod St. McGarry called the offer “ridiculous” and said the council had lost their sense of corporate Ottawa.
The Somerset ward was recently shown by CBC to have the largest reserve fund of all the wards in Ottawa, with $1,640,778, with calls from the community for this money to be spent. But according to Holmes, the renovation of Primrose and Chaudiere parks used a large sum of this fund, and plans to develop other parks are also underway.
“The council is absolutely good at business. We always have a private sector appraisal before offering money for land and public discussions before using it to create new parkland,” says Holmes.
“Around $600,000 is to be spent on McNabb Park with plans including a new skateboard park, community garden, and play structure. That is a significant amount of money from the fund.
” The cash-in-lieu policy was created in 2009 so developers could pay money into a city council parkland fund to counteract development in that area. This fund is then divided and used by councillors to enhance and create green space across the city. Sixty per cent goes to individual wards and the remaining 40 per cent is placed in a citywide fund.
The Centretown Community Citizens Association says getting the right balance between development and green areas is key to making this project work in Centretown.
“I think what the Centretown community are looking for is the right development in our area. We are anxious to work with developers to create beautiful buildings in the area,” says Robert Dekker, Vice President of the CCCA.
Dekker believes it’s difficult to make this policy a success, but that it’s very important for the Centretown area that the money is used.
“There is a definite lack of recreational places in Centretown, we need more. And the little spaces of green created by this policy will be good for people to take their families.”
According to Holmes, before the parkland policy was introduced in 2009 the Somerset ward received no money from the citywide fund and there was no renovation in the area for almost 30 years. “We are the area which has the least amount of green space. The cash-in-lieu policy is the only way we can afford to make more,” says Holmes.
Public talks about McNabb Park are underway with construction scheduled to begin in 2014.