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.

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