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LETTER: Parkland Dedication Bylaw must allow City to meet needs of residents

Exposure to natural spaces is necessary for human health, says reader
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GuelphToday has received the following letter from Kevin Bowman who is concerned about access to quality parkland in Guelph.

On Monday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m., City Council will be voting on (among other things) an updated version of the Parkland Dedication Bylaw. The purpose of this Bylaw is to ensure that current and future residents of Guelph have access to the appropriate quantity of parkland in each community given the population density.

Many studies conducted since at least as far back as the mid 80's have shown that exposure to natural spaces is necessary for human health. Arguably, park infrastructure is just as important as other kinds of infrastructure: water, electricity, roads, etc.

According to the Provincially mandated Places to Grow Act, Guelph's population will be about 190,000 by the year 2040. That means that Guelph needs to build/develop the residential, commercial and public infrastructure for about 60,000 additional residents over the next 20 years and this must be done within the current city limits.

Specifically for parks, this means approximately 190 hectares of new parkland within current city limits. Many residents are concerned the current draft of the Parkland Dedication Bylaw fails to enable the city to achieve these goals resulting in Guelph becoming a park poor city.

The Provincially mandated Planning Act dictates limits on what municipalities can demand from developers in terms of parkland dedication. It also stipulates that municipalities can demand land or cash in lieu of land from developers. In the past Guelph has not demanded the maximums allowed, forgoing potential parkland and revenue (perhaps tens of millions of dollars worth) leaving Guelph taxpayers to make up the difference.

The proposed Bylaw essentially proposes to continue this practice despite an expert consultant the City paid more than $113,000 advising that the City adopt a policy of demanding the maximum dedication allowed under the Planning Act with a preference for land over cash in lieu. (When City management was asked why they were not adopting the recommendation of the consultant it was explained that the City disagrees.)

Even if the City demanded the maximum for future developments we might not be able to achieve the goal of providing all current and future residents with appropriate access to parkland.

I strongly urge the City to adopt the expert consultant's recommend policy of demanding the maximum allowable parkland dedication for future development with a preference for land over cash in lieu of land. Allowances for negotiating something less in extenuating circumstances can and should be included. This is commonly practiced by other cities such as Barrie, London, Markham, Mississauga, Oakville, Richmond Hill, Burlington and Vaughan.

How to get involved

Email City Council:
Attend the public meeting: Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m., City Hall
Submit written comments to the public meeting: email by 10 a.m. on Jan. 25
Speak at the public meeting: email by 10 a.m. on Jan. 25