Councillor McCubbin comments on parkland vote

by Jill McCubbin

Last night, with a vote of 7 to 4, the Mississippi Mills Committee of the Whole chose the following option in regards to Don Maynard Park and Block 42:

“Option #3

Sell a portion of Blocks 40 (Don Maynard Park) and 42 and retain a portion as parkland. Under this option the Catholic School Board of Eastern Ontario could consider if it wished to purchase all or a portion of Block 42 and some lots would be created for sale from the remainder of Block 42 (if any) and from a portion of Block 40 (Don Maynard Park), while retaining a park footprint from Blocks 40 (Don Maynard Park) and 42 (if any) as close in size to the existing park as possible.

This is a compromise option. At this time, it is uncertain as to how much revenue would be generated from the sale of land though any revenue generated would be applied towards enhancing features for the Gemmill Park Project and/or upgrading and enhancing other park developments in the Almonte Ward, if available.”

One Councillor also suggested that the Working Committee (yet to be struck) to be tasked with drafting the park re-configuration, described in Option #3, include residents from the Don Maynard Park neighbourhood as well as Councillors and staff. The Committee of the Whole agreed to this excellent suggestion. Also agreed to was my request that the sale lots created from the re-configuration of the two blocks be zoned in similar fashion to the low density housing in the neighbourhood.

Below is the statement that I contributed to the informed and very thoughtful discussion that happened at the Committee of the Whole last night in regards to a very difficult decision and compromise. There were some people in attendance last night who doubt Council’s commitment to this compromise, but there is no doubt in my mind.

Thank you all for attending this evening.

I believe it’s a positive development that we have a compromise to consider in regards to the future of Don Mayard Park and Block 42. I have been considering and listening to suggestions of compromise since the question of selling Don Maynard park and Block 42 first came up. I believe compromises are the stuff of good decision making – and that will always be so.

However, I want to say a bit more: Some residents’ perception of the process of how council reaches a decision surprised me these last few months… Council and staff follow defined processes that lead to decision making at the end, not the beginning, of the process. Expert and public feedback is welcomed and incorporated. Final decision-making is made after research, staff reporting, further discussion and usually compromise. Yet these past months I see the public’s perception of how Council comes to a decision is sometimes skewed. I don’t make decisions in isolation or in back rooms. Council does not set out to serve one portion of the community over the other. Council does not make cavalier decisions. We compromise.

Some residents have believed mis-information and then made accusations without evidence. Unfounded accusations cause ill-will and distrust in our community. Many of us – residents and staff and Council members – have been grappling unproductively within this negative atmosphere. Yet I admit Council is also partly at fault and needs to correct and improve its communications. Communication is a two way street. More timely, more frequent and more considerate communications from Council are necessary. I am committing to work on that.

And so, I see compromise as a way forward.

Many residents of the Don Maynard Park area signed a petition against selling their park, and, with compromises, we can still keep a park on Gale Street. Some here may believe phasing in projects or shelving the Gemmill Park project for an indeterminate time, in favour of further community fundraising, are good compromises — I see this as delaying.

I believe choosing compromises shows that this Council is taking responsibility for shaping the future of our municipality. Our municipality needs to attract and retain young families and youth — a skate park and a splash pad are a long time coming and we don’t want to wait for years and years more. The future of our community will vanish if we don’t encourage youth and young families to stay here and build their futures here with us. Compromises will allow us to keep a park on Gale Street and increase the assets in Gemmill Park – I think these are both desirable and attainable.