Residents speak out against ‘park’ re-zoning

Duane Hicks

It’s clear some local residents do not want town council to re-zone the “Nelson Street Park” for residential development.
During a public meeting at the Civic Centre on Monday night, seven individuals—backed by family and neighbours—spoke against the proposed re-zoning of the property, located between Minnie Avenue and Williams Avenue, from open space to Residential Type 2 (R2).
This is so the property can be divided into five lots and sold for residential development.
Eric Rude, who lives on Church Street, presented council with a petition signed by those against the re-zoning of “Nelson Street Park.”
The petition included 807 signatures, about 550 of which were by Fort Frances residents.
Others who spoke against the proposed re-zoning included Jack Steinke, Kalan Kielczewski, Michelle George, Bonnie Kielczewski, Melissa Wilson, and Joanne Bliss.
Kalan Kielczewski, who also lives in the neighbourhood and is spearheading the campaign to save the park, pleaded with council to listen to the community.
She said hundreds of people signed the petition to save the park and “if it’s a case of the wants and needs of the many outweighing the wants and needs of the few, I know that we have proven here tonight that we, the people who want to save Nelson Park, are the many and the people who seek to destroy it are the few.
“You asked for good reasons. We have given them,” added Kielczewski. “The majority has spoken and I hope our pleas do not fall on deaf ears.
“I have never asked anything from my town council until now, but once upon a time you asked something of me,” she continued. “You asked me for my vote, and I was willing to hear each and every one of you out before I made my decision because that’s what democracy is all about.
“And the people I voted for were people who I believed who would do what is in the best interest of the community, the majority; who would listen to people regardless of the size of their wallets,” Kielczewski stressed.
“They would want to be about the people and would respect what the people want. They would use their morals and ethics to guide them, not dollar signs.
“People who would hear us out not because they have to, but because they want to, and conduct themselves with dignity and grace as elected officials should.
“With that being said, I ask how many other times have you seen a group of neighbours band together, not once or twice but four times, to fight over the same issue?” Kielczewski asked council.
“Doesn’t that tell you something?” she wondered. “Can’t you see how much Nelson Park means to the community and us? Haven’t you ever believed in anything so strong that you’re willing to fight for it over and over and over again?
“Well, we believe in Nelson Park and I hope that you do, too.”
Kielczewski also presented a letter of support from local MP John Rafferty and local MPP Sarah Campbell.
One local resident, Jason Kabel, spoke in favour of the re-zoning, summarizing that the tax base is dwindling and council has to do what’s “right” for the town.
“It is right to try to expand our town, have development, so that we can see people move to our town and not see people moving away to buy property elsewhere,” he argued.
Last night’s public meeting also addressed the proposed re-zoning of the property on the corner of Minnie Avenue and Front Street from tourist commercial (C4) to “open space” to offset the eliminated open space that would result from the conversion of the “Nelson Street Park.”
Rude spoke briefly against this, noting this land would be better used for overflow parking during the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship should the event return to the riverfront down the road.
Council will take the information put forth last night and consider it prior to its next meeting, which is slated for next Monday (Dec. 19) due to the Christmas holidays.
At that meeting, council will vote on the bylaws relevant to the proposed re-zoning amendments.
Also at last night’s meeting, council:
•heard a presentation by Lindsay Hamilton of the Rainy River Arts Collective re: a snow sculpture project, and referred the matter to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation, with input from the Community Services and Administration and Finance executive committees;
•agreed to proclaim January as “National Alzheimer Awareness Month” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•referred a request from the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame for a 2012 membership/fundraising request to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation;
•referred a per capita funding request from Safe Communities Rainy River District to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation;
•referred a Police Services Board request, re: the proceeds of the 2011 OPP auction, to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation;
•referred an invitation to participate in the Emergency Services Steering Committee to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation;
•passed a bylaw to authorize a lease and service agreement with Wilson’s Business Solutions for a photocopier for the treasury department; and
•passed a bylaw to adopt a revised user fee schedule for 2012 (as previously reported, the majority of the town’s user fees will go up three percent).