Mayor McLaughlin is being disingenuous in his opinion piece Public meeting to be held to discuss Don Maynard Park.
Most certainly “the Town is dishonoring Don Maynard by removing his name from the park.” No municipality should dispose of or rename, any park, street, building, bridge etc. named after citizens in recognition of their contributions to the municipality. It is different if the asset poses a danger to the community, e.g. if a building is almost collapsing.
But I find this particularly disrespectful to my dad who was honoured while he was still living and could appreciate the recognition. The August 17, 2003 dedication was the last time that many people saw my father while he was alive. His health was failing and he was hospitalized a year later and died on October 17, 2004. Many of us were there to thank dad for all he had done for the Town and the values he helped instill in 2 generations of students at Almonte District High School. We saw him overcome with emotion when the Don Maynard Park sign was unveiled. I spent many days with my dad as he lay in the hospital and I can tell you that he often spoke with pride that the Town considered him worthy of such an honour. I don’t understand how the current Mayor and Councillors can reconcile my dad’s feeling of pride when the land is disposed of and town workers put up a sign on different parkland.
The Mayor’s statement “Others decry the loss of parkland. There is a net gain, not a loss.” is quite misleading. Residential developers are usually required to convey to the Town land for park or other public recreational purposes, 5% of the gross land area being developed. As the Town grows the amount of parkland will naturally increase. With these new parks being created, the total area of parkland will increase as compared to the total area of parkland if Don Maynard Park and Block 42 are sold. But there will be a loss, Don Maynard Park and Block 42 will be lost as parkland.
Although many of us are upset at the thought of losing the dedicated “Don Maynard Park”, I know that my dad would be much more upset at the thought that parkland was being taken from the Town. Dad helped establish the first Parks and Recreation Committee in the former Town of Almonte. He and others developed the first complete Recreation Plan that included all of the parks at the time. I find it ironic that over 50 years later, the town is relying on the 2013 Master Recreation Plan to justify destroying parkland.
The idea that the Town could simply declare parkland surplus and offer it to the highest bidder did not sit well with many of us, so I started to do some research. I looked over By-Law 09-41 that sets procedures that must be followed regarding the sale of land. This is what I found:
SECTION 5: DISPOSITION OF NON-VIABLE LAND
a) When Council deems that land is “non-viable”, a resolution shall be passed declaring the lands surplus and non-viable.
SECTION 1: DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of this by-law:
a) “Non-viable Land” means land that is deemed as being a potential liability to the Town and is determined to be of a size, shape or nature for which there is no general demand or market.
I emailed Mayor McLaughlin and all Councillors this question:
Could you please provide me an explanation how the sale of Don Maynard Park and adjoining Block 42 (and any other parkland in Mississippi Mills), conforms to the attached By-Law 09-41?
Only the Mayor and Councillor John Edwards replied. Councillor Edwards was very polite, professional and treated me with respect. He promptly answered all of my emails, but ultimately all he could say was “I think the language in bylaws is interesting but not directly pertinent.”. I am not sure how the wording of By-Laws cannot be pertinent since they set the rules that the Town must follow.
Mayor McLaughlin was disappointingly impolite, unprofessional and disrespectful. His reply to me, without any salutation, was “A question for Diane”, meaning Diane Smithson, CAO, to which I replied “Your Chief Administrative Officer does not have the authority to deem lands as non-viable. Section 5, Subsection a) of By-Law 09-41 puts this responsibility on the Council. So again, I ask for a response to my initial email.” The Mayor’s reply “I get it but she had no problem; so ask her.”
My final email to the Mayor went unanswered:
“So this part of the preamble to By-Law 09-41 does not apply to you?
AND WHEREAS Section 270 (5) requires the municipality to ensure that is it accountable to the public for its actions, and the manner in which the municipality will try to ensure that its actions are transparent to the public.”
My research also led me to By-Law 07-77 “a by-law to adopt an Accountability and Transparency Policy”. The first paragraph of the By-Law reads:
“Transparency is the basis of an accountable, democratic government. To participate effectively in a democratic process, citizens must be able to see fully and clearly what their government is doing. Transparent communication with citizens involves not just making information available, but also ensuring its integrity and clarity.”
To Mayor McLaughlin and Councillors of the Town of Mississippi Mills, we believe that you cannot declare parkland “surplus” and put it up for sale because parkland does meet the By-Law definition of “Non-viable Land”. Since I did not get a reasonable answer to my emails, I will ask the same questions at the public meeting on August 9 on behalf of friends of Don Maynard Park. I will email a letter to all of you outlining our questions well in advance of the meeting so you can have plenty of time to prepare an acceptable response. We will not put you on the spot unfairly and we hope that you will provide answers to the residents of Mississippi Mills and those with fond memories of Don Maynard.
To all interested, please feel free to visit our Don Maynard Park Facebook Group Page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1583337538626579/ It is intentionally a Public Group so anybody can read the posts and anybody can join.
And if you are so inclined to sign our petition to halt the sale of parklands, please visit https://www.change.org/p/mayor-mclaughlin-save-don-maynard-park
Steve Maynard and the Friends of Don Maynard Park