Is This $11.6 Million a Good Use of Taxpayer Money?
Taxpayers in Brampton were in for a surprise when the City announced that it was buying a golf club in Brampton and transforming it into a new recreation centre and seniors’ facility. Residents and City Councillors alike have had mixed feelings on the sale, and now, a public meeting is coming up to discuss the future community centre.
It’s true — the City revealed in December 2017 that it is purchasing Riverstone Golf Club for a whopping $11.6 million. The City plans to convert the golf course that runs along the West Humber River into a brand new east-end seniors' facility and recreation centre for Brampton, tucked into Castlemore.
The vote among City Councillors was very close on this, at 6-4 to purchase the Castlemore club, and Mayor Linda Jeffrey was one of the parties who disagreed with the purchase. Jeffrey actually posted on Facebook that the purchase was poor timing, bared unknown long-term costs, and not in the right location for a new recreation centre.
"3 issues caused me to vote against the purchase of the money-losing Riverstone Golf Club:
1) Poor Timing: Spending $11.6 million on Riverstone at this moment is quite frankly poor timing. The City just passed our budget with a 3.7% increase - we are asking a lot of our residents and they need to ensure we are using our tax dollars wisely.
2) Unknown Long-Term Costs: The City appears to be resolving a private company's problem with scarce taxpayer dollars and unfortunately there will be significant costs to naturalize the golf course and valley as well as the operation of the facility following renovation.
3) Not the Right Location: Is this the right location? This isn't the kind of recreation facility we would normally build for our residents, nor is it an optimal location considering nearby recreation centres and parks."
Buying the golf club has been a hot topic for some weeks now, as the buzz has expanded amongst residents. And while some residents have argued that this is just a bailout for an ailing golf club — much like providing the Brampton Beast with $1.5 million over three years might have been a bailout for an ailing hockey franchise (voted by the same Councillors back in 2016) — this could actually be a great use for the space.
“The renovated community centre will offer fitness rooms, multi-purpose rooms, and an updated aquatics facility with a therapeutic pool,” said the City.
“Residents of all ages will be welcome to enjoy the centre, while an emphasis on seniors' programming will help support the older adult population on the east side of Brampton. The valley lands, formerly the golf course, will be naturalized to create a new conservation area. This will preserve important habitat for local wildlife, and provide a connected trail system to encourage active living.”
According to the City, the over 60 acres of valley lands at the clubhouse will be re-naturalized to create a conservation area with recreational trails in addition to the new indoor recreational space.
The City seems very much aware of the controversy, and says that the multi-million dollar purchase was well thought out:
“The purchase of the Riverstone clubhouse and surrounding lands was based on extensive consultation with Brampton residents, community groups, and businesses during the development of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. By renovating an existing facility instead of building new, the City will save millions of dollars and years of construction time.”
On the one hand, perhaps the money could have gone to investing in other current issues like a new hospital, Peel Memorial's expansion into a full hospital, or even affordable housing.
On the other hand, a facility like this one might prove absolutely necessary in the east end, especially with its focus on seniors’ programming.
Regardless, tax dollars will be spent on this project, which is set to roll out over the next two years or so.
Property tax is increasing by 2.7 per cent in 2018, according to Brampton's budget. That works out to about $126 for the average residential home, appraised at $471,000.The new east-end recreation centre is expected to open in Spring 2019.
If you’re interested or feel passionately about the Riverstone project, or just want to stop by and get as informed as possible, perhaps you should make note of the February 15 public meeting and take some time to check it out.
For more information, click here.
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