City unfairly turfed toddler sports program from park after neighbour complaints, says ombudsman
Park permit was revoked after neighbours complained to the City of Toronto
All they wanted to do was play soccer, but that proved to be too noisy for some neighbours of Lynndale Parkette in south Scarborough last summer.
A bunch of toddlers were no match for the residents' complaints and the city revoked the program's permit mid-season.
The way they were turfed from the park was unfair, now says the city ombudsman, Susan Opler, in a report released on Friday.
"In managing this permit, we found that Parks, Forestry and Recreation, in its effort to focus on customer service, overlooked the need for fairness," reads the report.
Sportball, the company running the program, has more than 500 locations in Canada, the U.S. and Singapore. Most of its programs are for children 12 and under.
The program at Lynndale Parkette, near Kingston Rd. and Warden Ave., was for toddlers and pre-schoolers who signed up to play soccer and baseball. Sportball ran its program three days a week.
It was the first time the city received a permit application for a sport program at Lynndale, says the report.
On the first day of class, a Sunday morning, a resident approached the field to complain about the noise. In response, the company asked the coach to "tone down his 'upbeat personality'" and not use a whistle on Sunday morning.
"How out of control could they be?" asked Meagan Ryder at the time, a parent whose children played soccer. "There's six or eight pylons that make a square. They're learning to kick a ball."
Six complaints recorded
In total, the permit office recorded six complaints, according to the ombudsman's report.
In 2016, city spokesperson Matt Cutler told CBC Toronto it wasn't the kids that were the problem, but rather "there isn't any road access to this park so families and neighbours were finding that [parents] were parking right in front of their homes and [dealing with] congestion."
None of the complaints was investigated, says the report, and further, there is "no process for handling permit violations" and no clear understanding of penalties.
The city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation complaints policy doesn't outline how to deal with complaints about park use, — it only summarizes how to deal with complaints about staff.
Opler also criticizes the department's lack of record keeping and says the city "did not properly document the reasons for canceling" the permit.
According to the Parks department, they process more than 308,000 permits a year, which accounts for 10.6 million permit hours.
The ombudsman makes several recommendations in her report, some of which include:
Develop a clear, uniform process for local park supervisors to assess permit applications.
Develop an internal process to identify and handle permit violations.
Consider a range of penalties available for permit violations.
Complaints policy to be amended to include anything under the department's authority, including permits.
- Ensure appropriate record keeping of all permit handling.
The department agreed with the ombudsman's findings and recommendations and has committed to implementing all of them by the third quarter of 2017.
Opler concludes her report by saying she will monitor the progress in executing the changes.