A public meeting about a possible community hub being built in Brant Park got extremely heated Tuesday night.
Roughly 60 members of the Brant Park neighbourhood gave city staff and other speakers an earful at a meeting held at Brant Avenue Public School.
“NOBODY WANTS THIS THERE!” yelled one agitated woman, setting the tone for the evening.
The city recently bought two acres of open space from the Upper Grand District School Board for $85,000. The property land sits between the school and Brant Park, in the northeast corner of the city east of Victoria Road.
The city is considering allowing the non-profit organization Kindle Communities Inc. to build a community hub in the space which would be used for community programs and could potentially have permanent tenants such as Public Health and social service agencies.
The idea stems from a 2013 directive from Guelph City Council, which in turn stemmed from a report from Wellington-Guelph-Dufferin Public Health on various community needs in the city.
Those living close to the park that showed up to Tuesday’s meeting want no part of it.
Several weren’t opposed to the hub, just its location.
Others mentioned possible methadone clinics, graffiti, the hub becoming “a hangout” for teens doing drugs and creating graffiti and needles on the ground as concerns.
“I don’t want to even hear that it won’t affect property values, because it will,” said one person who lives right across from the park.
Others lamented the potential loss of park space.
Others were blunter.
“Let’s cut to the chase. This is why we’re all here, we don’t care about the playground or swings,” one woman said, in expressing concerns about negative social activities they feel might be associated with the hub.
“We will have no say in what goes in there and that’s what scares us,” she continued.
Several representatives from city staff, the executive director of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, a Kindle representative and Ward 2 councillor James Gordon were all continually interrupted by questions and comments from the audience.
Anne-Marie Simpson of Kindle said there were no preconceived notions as to what type of tenants the hub would have.
“It needs to feel right for the community and viable over time,” Simpson said.
Brendan Johnson of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition asked the audience “what’s your biggest fear?” and told them that they had a “very narrow” view of the word “hub.”
Staff told the audience that the community hub was not a “done deal,” and that Tuesday’s public meeting, and a previous one last Saturday, were merely the first steps in public engagement.
They were told that the purchase of the land by the city was not an indication the hub was a foregone conclusion and that if the hub doesn’t go ahead then Brant Park would grow by two acres.
Councillor Gordon told the group to organize themselves into a committee and bring their collective concerns forward to staff and city council.
Further staff and public consultation is planned for the near future.
“We’re nowhere near a planning application,” said Colleen Clack, the city’s Manager of Culture, Tourism and Community Investment.