Ottawa

Westboro curling club turns to redevelopment to sweep away tax troubles

The Granite Curling Club of West Ottawa has a plan to develop its land to secure its financial future  — but it has to get the city and its neighbours to agree to swapping land at a city park.

Deal could see new club built at nearby park, but some neighbours wary

The Granite Curling Club of West Ottawa has existed in its current building since 1953. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The Granite Curling Club of West Ottawa says it wants to swap land with the city to secure the club's future with a new mixed-used development.

People who live by the curling club near Westboro station are concerned the plan would amount to a loss of park space, since the club's replacement four-sheet facility would be built behind the current club on part of Lion's Park.

Geoff Wilson, club treasurer, told a community meeting Wednesday it's essential to keep the club operating continuously.

"We cannot redevelop on our existing land without tearing this down first," he said.

"We can't knock this thing down and wait two years to have a new structure. It's gone, it's game, set and match at that point in time."

The private, non-profit club is already in a financial tight spot, needing to increase fees after a recent property tax assessment put a strain on their finances.

Their taxes initially jumped from $8,000 to nearly $25,000 per year, although in October that tax bill was reduced by about $12,000 after an appeal.

In the club membership's preferred option, the curling facility would be built behind the existing building and stretch into Lion's Park.

The developer would build a high-rise commercial and residential tower that could be 25 storeys tall.

The club said it would give the city a stretch of land to the east, larger than it would be taking, for a linear park.

A drawing of the Granite Curling Club of West Ottawa's preferred redevelopment option, which would have the club occupy part of the current Lion's Park. (KitchissippiWard.ca)

Loretta Fleming, who lives in a nearby co-op, is worried about the encroachment on parkland.

"This is our community too. We're residents. When they're gone after their hour or two of curling, it's our park," she said.

She's concerned about ecological and community loss of having the city turn over existing green space at the request of any private group, even a non-profit.

"It would be a precedent that parkland is up for grabs," she said.

Loretta Fleming lives near the Granite Curling Club and says she's concerned the club's proposal encroaches on Lion's Park, seen behind her. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"I don't think it's a good use of space for the people who are using the park right now, which are young children," said Talitha Nabbali.

Linear park less versatile

Greg Mathieu, chair of the Granite Club's redevelopment committee, said the proposal would make the park space more accessible to the community since it's blocked from Scott Street by the current curling club building.

"Our feeling is about Lion's Park is that it's a great community asset. We believe we're a community asset as well as the gymnastics club," he said.

"We think opening it up to Scott Street … is going to provide some greater community use overall."

Greg Mathieu, chair of the Granite Curling Club's redevelopment committee, said the club is looking for a compromise allow it to renew its facility and secure its finances after a recent tax hit. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Paul Landry, a senior project manager in the city's parks department, said the linear park configuration would make the land less adaptable to different recreational uses.

"Even though you can get nice pathways, sitting areas, perhaps a splash pad and things like that — it still limits the utility of the park," Landry said.

Coun. Jeff Leiper told residents at the meeting that is also his concern, but that he hasn't taken a position on the proposal or the unusual request to swap land with the city.

The club has not filed a development or zoning application with the city.

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