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Public pitch to ditch Georgina's $30M 'white elephant' MURC facility

'The need isn't there anymore'
April 4, 2018
By Heidi Riedner

The town's plan to build a $30-million recreation facility in the south end of Keswick continues to raise opposition from some members of the public, who say the project is a "white elephant" that Georgina taxpayers simply can't afford.

While a staff report tabled at council March 28 ironed out amendments to the South Keswick Development Area Plan to facilitate the future site of the Multi-Use Recreation Complex (MURC) on the northwest corner of Woodbine Avenue and Ravenshoe Road, Simcoe Landing resident Mike Waddington made his pitch to council to ditch the project

Considering a series of reports on the matter tabled during the past four years, Waddington suggested a more fiscally responsible approach would be for the town to acquire the land in question, build a new south Keswick fire hall and then stop or "at least move forward very slowly".

"The need isn't there anymore," said Waddington, who ran in the Ward 1 byelection. "This has become a want and if there's one thing that I've picked up from budget deliberations is that wants come second."

A lot has changed from a recreation facility needs study tabled in 2014 and quoted ever since saying the town needs, can't afford, but will benefit from a new rec facility, Waddington said, adding a July 2016 report that brought up the fact the MURC was dependent on 1/3 of its users coming from out of town and projected growth numbers being off target "rarely comes up."

With East Gwillimbury going ahead with its own rec centre that will be located about a five-minute drive south of Ravenshoe Road on Leslie Street, that supporting 1/3 quotient appears gone.

Development charges expected to fund construction of the MURC won't match those originally banked on since original growth targets used in the 2014 study were overestimated.

That leaves Georgina building a "white elephant" at this point, Waddington said.

"These earlier points seem to have fizzled away," Waddington said, adding "locking up development charges for a project like this for the foreseeable future would be the equivalent of you trading away all your picks for the next 10 years on a player who you know is going to underperform".

Referencing a December 2017 report on the town's draft budget, which included the results of public consultation asking residents how they wanted their tax dollars spent, Waddington wondered why we are still discussing a new facility when recreation programs and new facilities were tied for last place on a list of priorities from polled taxpayers.

"If the argument for the MURC going full steam ahead is because our town deserves it or we just really want one, I'm sorry, that's not logic; that's pride, that's greed," Waddington said, adding if a five-minute drive is the issue, then Pefferlaw residents should be asked how they feel about a 25-minute drive they are expected to make to go to the MURC.

Waddington said the town shouldn't be building one large facility, but bringing programming and resources to the communities that need them, otherwise, "years from now, when your constituents are asking where their facilities are, you'll be able to tell them that all the eggs in that basket are sitting in Keswick".