Toronto

'It makes me nervous': Concern grows over Vaughan Sports Village development plan

A developer wants to purchase 33 acres of public parkland from the City of Vaughan and use it to expand a sports facility that will include a private high school and an outdoor concert space.

Developer wants to expand 'wildly successful' recreation facility

Laura Rinaldo, president of the South Maple Ratepayers Association, in the park behind her home. A developer wants to buy the public land from the City of Vaughan. (Submitted by Laura Rinaldo)

Laura Rinaldo says she never imagined the greenspace behind her home in Vaughan would be developed, but now a builder wants to buy the public land and use it to expand a nearby sports facility. 

"We don't want parkland to be sold," said Rinaldo, president of the South Maple Ratepayers Assocation, a group fighting the development.

"Not this park or any park within Vaughan."

Rinaldo and her organization have also raised concerns about increased noise and traffic and having to fight to find street parking.

She said years ago, when her family bought the property she lives on, they paid a premium for a lot backing onto greenspace. 

The developer, though, argues an expansion of The Sports Village — including a private high school with a focus on athletics, along with community space — will be a good fit for a changing neighbourhood. 

The South Maple Ratepayers Association has collected more than 600 signatures from community members who are opposed to an expansion of The Sports Village. (Submitted by Laura Rinaldo)

It's the latest example of a clash seen in many GTA communities over development and also raises questions about the sale of public land to a private company.

The debate comes as the City of Vaughan prepares to release a report on the proposal before city council votes on the plan.

"It's really all about creating a much larger and a much more broad community hub," said Paul Stevens of ZAS Architects. The firm is working with developer Mentana Group on the proposal to buy 33 acres of parkland from the city.

The developer, Mentana Group, has plans to expand the facility onto what is currently public greenspace. (Google Earth)

Currently, The Sports Village hosts hockey leagues and other groups that rent the four ice rinks, along with a space for beach volleyball in the summer. 

It's been "wildly successful" as a recreation facility, Stevens said.

The expansion would include a private high school called Berkeley Academy that would cater to elite hockey players. Concerts for 5,000 people could also be hosted. The school's commons would be designed to host outdoor community events.
Paul Stevens, the architect for the project, sees the plan as a good fit for the community. (Submitted by Paul Stevens)

"Lovely idea," Vaughan city Coun. Marilyn Iafrate said, but added, "I'm not really convinced that this is the best place for it."

Iafrate echoes residents' concerns over noise, explaining that from her home she can hear music every night emanating from the outdoor concert space at Canada's Wonderland, three kilometres away.

"I could lay in bed and listen to the Eagles play Hotel California ... I love it but I shouldn't be hearing it," she said. "So what are these people supposed to say when they're a couple hundred feet away?"

'It makes me nervous'

Iafrate also questioned the process. It's an "unsolicited bid" not being put up for public tender, plus it involves the sale of parkland, which she said the city needs to protect. 

"I'm struggling to see what the merits are," she said. "It makes me nervous."

Stevens said concerns over a nightly pounding from rock concerts are unfounded. Rather, he envisions the outdoor seating area as more of a European-style symphony space.

Hundreds of community members attended a public consultation on The Sports Village development proposal at Vaughan city hall on Feb. 17. (Submitted by South Maple Ratepayers Association)

To him, this is about "respectful growth," as parks and public spaces change, and a plan that will benefit a range of people in the community.

Rinaldo doesn't agree. She and her association have filed numerous access to information requests, trying to uncover as much as possible about the development and its dealing with the city.

The mother of three who works full-time says opposing the plan has turned into a second job.

"If Vaughan needs this, please find another location for it outside of a residential area."

About the Author

Lorenda Reddekopp

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Lorenda Reddekopp is a reporter for CBC Toronto.

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