Following Shelburne Town Council’s unanimous decision to consider the proposal of the sale of Shelburne’s wildly popular green space and local community hub, a venue for community functions, Fiddle Park. Shelburne Mayor Ken Bennington kindly ran through the process of just how the decision came to pass. A surprise to the community when the announcement of the sale was released to the community on May 14, 2108 following a Town Council meeting, Mayor Bennington revealed Council has been considering and reviewing the idea for some time.
“Council was originally approached by a proponent, with an idea of a land exchange. This activity had been done in the past, so Council listened to the proposal. Throughout discussions, it became apparent that due to the NVCA (Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority) restrictions on the property being offered for exchange, that this particular deal had no further merit, and discussions stopped. After a few months, the proponents returned with an offer to purchase, in excess of $7 million dollars. The possibility to directly invest millions of dollars into parks and recreation in the Town of Shelburne proved fruitful to Town Council. On Monday night, Council considered the offer of purchase and sale, and in a unanimous recorded vote of 7-0, decided to pursue the sale of Fiddle Park lands. According to our bylaws, we must first declare the property as surplus, and advertise the required notices etc. Council has until June 4th, to ultimately decide. These discussions have been ongoing for some time, I would estimate a year, but I could find out the actual date if required, ” commented Mayor Bennington.
Mayor Bennington also commented that during the June 4th scheduled Council meeting, Council will have the opportunity to change their mind’s on the vote having been made aware of all public written submissions sent to Town Clerk Jennifer Willoughby by the June 1st deadline. There has not as of yet been a formal, actual plan of exactly where monies from the sale of the Park Lands will be allocated to in a detailed obligatory manner, but that is expected to be made public moving forward. Also worth noting, there has not as of yet been a plan revealed to the public of another location where a “Fiddle Park” type of venue could be located in future, which is a concern to both festival goers and current home owners who do no not want such a venue in their back yards.
While many Shelburnites are affronted, shocked, even profoundly saddened by the possible loss of Fiddle Park, some are definitely siding with Council’s decision hoping for continued future growth in Shelburne and by such a sale, encouraging box stores and other business start ups to also come to Shelburne, securing future transportation opportunities, upgrades to current infrastructure, and sustainability for future generations. A complicated issue with strong local feedback both for and against the sale, the community is asking the tough questions. Shelburnites are curious as to how a bedroom community can make the transition to a thriving metropolis so quickly, citing the old adage of putting the cart before the horse begging the question of whether “future Shelburne” will become a town of only houses and when transportation arrives, question whether commuting opportunities will actually encourage Shelburnites to leave daily, shopping, working, attending medical appointments and the other obligations elsewhere and result in lack of local financial support for businesses. How much of our Shelburne population is actually present during the daytime shopping hours? Enough to support a number of box stores? Do we have statistics to support or dispute the concept? These are questions that can be directed to Town Hall for answers. In the media release issued earlier in the week, Council encourages all questions be written and submitted by June 1, 2018 to Town clerk Jennifer Willoughby and a final decision will be made by Council by June 4, 2018 at the scheduled Council Meeting. The public is welcome to attend the Council meeting which takes place June 4, at 7 p.m. at Shelburne Town Hall. As more details become available, The Shelburne Freelancer will provide updates ensuring the importance of continuously becoming aware of ALL THE FACTS.
By Alex McLellan