Arena site plan OK’d
Therrien, Riel vote against Trent University twin-pad arena plan after environmental concerns raised about wetland on former farm
A site plan for a new city-owned arena and pool at Trent University got final approval of council Tuesday against the objections of a dozen citizens upset that the plan includes filling in part of a wetland.
The vote was 9-2 in favour of the plan. The only two councillors who voted against it were Coun. Diane Therrien and Coun. Keith Riel.
To build a new twin-pad arena - and maybe a pool, too, if council decides to go to the expense the city would have to fill in more than 11,800 square feet of wetland (which is a portion of a much larger wetland).
That didn’t sit well with Coun. Diane Therrien.
“We need to strive for the best, most sustainable design and build principles – especially in sensitive areas,” she said.
Think of the next two generations, she said: “They deserve better.”
But Coun. Andrew Beamer said the plan was well thought-out and follows all the directives the city received from Otonabee Region Conservation Authority.
“This arena is desperately needed,” he said.
On Tuesday, council approved the arrangement of the building, roads and parking lots on the 22-acre site on Nassau Mills Rd. and Pioneer Rd.
To make up for filling in part of the wetland, the city plans to build a doubly large “compensation wetland” of species from the local ecology, which would be monitored by biologists for five years to ensure it flourishes.
A dozen people spoke in objection to the plan, before the vote on Tuesday; many of them were ecological restoration students at Trent University.
Several said they were disappointed to be studying at an institution that preaches environmentalism but allows the city to destroy a wetland on campus.
Debbie Jenkins, a PhD student in biology at Trent University, said there’s been research on new approaches to development.
“But none of that’s been considered here ... they’re ignored. It’s an environmental storm,” she said. “It’s a perfect example of everything to do wrong.”
Furthermore, Jenkins said the idea of replanting a wetland is “risky business” because it encourages the spread of invasive species while destroying the habitat of countless species.
Emily Stewart, a third-year ecological restoration student at Trent University, said she teaches children about ecological preservation at Jumping Mouse Outdoor School.
“I’m here because I don’t want children to suffer the consequences of irresponsible development,” she said. “Destroying a wetland does nothing but weaken the surrounding environment.”
Shannon Hogan, another thirdyear student at Trent in ecological restoration, asked council why they aren’t considering renovating arenas rather than destroying a wetland for a new development.
“Why isn’t the wetland being treated as significant until proven otherwise?” she asked.
Basil Conlin, a third-year biology student and expert on moths, showed council slides of several species of wildlife that live in the wetland at Trent University – many of them rare or uncommon.
He mentioned different types of moth, bats, freshwater shrimp, turtles, frogs, birds and salamanders.
“We have to protect these species - because once they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said.
But Julie Davis, vice-president of Trent University, said 60 percent of the massive campus is made up of designated nature areas, buffers and corridors.
“It is protected,” she said.
Davis said they considered all their land and offered the city land they thought was “most appropriate” for the development.
“This is area that is already occupied,” she said, adding that there’s a maintenance garage and a greenhouse on the site already. “We felt that was an optimal site.”
Ken Doherty, the city’s director of community services, added that the property is former farmland.
Mike Lord, business development manager at DM Wills Consulting Engineers, backed him up: he said a farm was established on the land in 1959.
“I think perspective is in order here,” Lord said. “The land was already developed.”
He added that replanted wetlands – or even artificial ones – can function “very, very well.”
Coun. Dan McWilliams said it’s important to see the land for what it is: a piece of vacant farmland.
“We’re sitting on a piece of farmland that was already well used,” he said.
Coun. Dean Pappas said the city is in dire need of a new twin-pad arena to replace the ageing Northcrest arena, and the city thought long and hard about whether to rebuild – and where.
“This has been coming for a long time,” he said. “I don’t want people to think this is just springing up.”
Coun. Andrew Beamer pointed out that Trent University has a master plan for development – and they offered up this particular site.
“I’m confident the experts and professionals know what they’re doing,” he said. “We need to proceed with this wonderful project.”
Coun. Lesley Parnell pointed out there are 1,460 acres of land at Trent University – and 60 per cent of the land is protected.
Meanwhile the arena plan will mean the loss of a quarter-acre of wetland.
“It’s going to be replaced – times four,” she said. “It’s manageable.” But Coun. Keith Riel objected. “This is the wrong spot for this arena and pool complex,” he said.
He said a replanted wetland would be fake – more like a wetland in a theme park than the real thing.
“I’m sorry – I don’t go along with that,” he said. “We can be seduced by building a twin-pad arena and a pool – let’s damn well put it in the right place .... To me, I see this as a black eye for Trent as they teach environmental science.”
Meanwhile, it’s still unclear whether the city will include a pool in the same building with the twinpad arena. There was no debate on that Tuesday.
With the pool, the building would cost $54 million; removing it from the plan would be expected to reduce the cost by at least $13 million.
The city has a site plan and building design that includes the pool, in case council goes for it.