Thunder Bay

Opposition mounts to proposed development of Kenora's Central Park

A plan to redevelop half of Kenora, Ont.'s Central Park has caught the attention of some locals, who want the green space to be protected.

City says park will provide much needed housing

The eastern portion of Central Park in Kenora, Ont., where a hockey rink and baseball diamond are will remain as-is, while the western portion of the park could be developed for housing. (Light Up Central/Facebook)

A plan to redevelop half of Kenora, Ont.'s Central Park has caught the attention of some locals, who want the green space to be protected.

Kenora city council heard the proposal to amend a zoning by-law and official plan on March 9. The planning changes were also discussed at the March 16 council meeting.

The decision to rezone and have the property redeveloped frustrated Dawn Mitchell, along with others who made presentations to Kenora city council. Mitchell said she wanted to see the area, close to downtown, which has been a green space for over a century, remaining as parkland.

"Once this green space is given to developers, it's gone for good. You can't get it back," Mitchell said. "So, I'm not sure people are really aware that the city council is basically going to be putting tenders out to develop this property." 

A report from the planning department in the city said the land would be used for housing. There is a high demand for affordable housing in Kenora and many smaller communities in northwestern Ontario.

"Yes, there is a housing need in Kenora, but the housing need is not for the city of Kenora to give away part of a public green space," Mitchell said.

She said she hopes to speak to Kenora city council about the decision soon, but has not yet formally approached the city. Mitchell said she is waiting though for a hearing with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, which is a provincial appeal process for planning matters.

The municipal report noted the west half of Central Park would be subdivided, where a baseball diamond is currently situated. The report said that diamond does not have lighting and is underutilized because of poor drainage.

The hockey rink and change shack would not be impacted by the development.

"The Central Park ball field is currently inadequate in meeting the needs of a diverse range of user groups. For those groups that do currently use the fields, they can be accommodated at other city locations," the city wrote.

Mitchell said the diamond is underutilized as it is not well maintained by the city.

"At the same time, finding serviced, developable land for urgently needed residential units has become more difficult, and new developments are frequently challenged by the cost of servicing and lot grading on difficult terrain," the report stated.

"If these applications are approved, Development Services staff will work with the future purchaser of the property to ensure that any development is well-suited to the needs of the community and the surrounding neighbourhood.

The city report noted 13 objectors raised concerns about the rezoning at the March meeting. Mitchell's petition has garnered over 550 signatures so far.

Mitchell said there is no scheduled date for a hearing with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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