N.D.G. res­i­dents balk at Benny Park pool plan

IN­DOOR FA­CIL­ITY WOULD RE­PLACE OUT­DOOR POOL Neigh­bours up in arms over bor­ough’s ‘ se­crecy’ in chang­ing lo­ca­tion of sports com­plex

Montreal Gazette - - Mon­treal - LINDA GYU­LAI GAZETTE CIVIC AF­FAIRS RE­PORTER

A plan to build a pub­lic in­door pool in­side a mu­nic­i­pal park in Notre Dame de Grâce is mak­ing waves.

The bor­ough of Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce will open a reg­is­ter today to gauge op­po­si­tion to a $15-mil­lion sports and com­mu­nity cen­tre the bor­ough wants to build in Benny Park, at Mon­k­land and Benny Aves., to re­place an out­door pool.

At least 139 el­i­gi­ble vot­ers who live near the park would have to sign the reg­is­ter to force the bor­ough to hold a ref­er­en­dum on the project. A ref­eren- dum re­sult would be bind­ing.

The fa­cil­ity is to in­clude a 25-me­tre in­door pool, an out­door deck, a gym­na­sium and a “green” roof, cov­ered with plants, that could be used by the pub­lic.

The com­plex was orig­i­nally des­tined for a va­cant nook of Benny Farm, a hous­ing de­vel­op­ment on the south­west cor­ner of Mon­k­land and Benny, and got a green light from res­i­dents dur­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions in Fe­bru­ary and March.

Cit­ing space con­straints and cost sav­ings, how­ever, the bor­ough coun­cil on Sept. 4 ap­proved the project for Benny Park, across the street.

That move – made with lit­tle pub­lic no­tice, crit­ics con­tend – has an­gered res­i­dents who say they don’t want to lose the park’s out­door pool or cede park space to the com­plex.

Raj Ram­tuhol, who lives near the park, spent the week­end dis­tribut­ing fliers to en­cour­age neigh­bours to sign the reg­is­ter.

“I’m not against the sports com­plex, but the park land is used by fam­i­lies to play,” said Ram­tuhol, who takes his son to the park.

The out­door pool and swim­mers’ pavil­ion sit on 18,000 square feet of park space, the bor­ough says, and the new com­plex would cover 26,000 square feet.

One tree would be cut down for the project, the bor­ough says. Nonny Rankin doesn’t be­lieve it. “The park has a lot of trees. And you need to have ser­vice roads for ser­vice trucks for that kind of com­plex, which means pour­ing as­phalt,” said Rankin, who lives in a se­niors res­i­dence on West Hill Ave., at the edge of Benny Park.

Rankin said she and other res­i­dents in her 100-unit res­i­dence heard last week the bor­ough had moved the project to the park.

“We are very very up in arms about this and about the se­crecy,” she said.

“We love our out­door pool, and it’s heav­ily used all sum­mer long.”

Rankin and oth­ers have or­ga­nized a car pool today to get res­i­dents to the reg­is­ter.

Ram­tuhol con­tends the bor­ough also did a poor job of ad­vis­ing the park’s neigh­bours they could sub­mit a pe­ti­tion to make res­i­dents in their area el­i­gi­ble to sign today’s reg­is­ter.

Res­i­dents who live in three zones, to the east, north and west of Benny Park, can sign the reg­is­ter. Those liv­ing to the south are in­el­i­gi­ble.

By re­zon­ing the park for the sports com­plex, Ram­tuhol con­tends, the bor­ough will be able to add sports fa­cil­i­ties in the park with­out need­ing coun­cil ap­proval.

“How can you com­pare a green roof to park space?” an­other res­i­dent, Alana Ron­ald, asked.

Ron­ald sug­gested the bor­ough could build the sports com­plex a few blocks north, in Con­fed­er­a­tion Park, at Bier­mans and West Hill Aves.

Ram­tuhol said the bor­ough should build the com­plex at its orig­i­nal site at Benny Farm, es­pe­cially since the bor­ough spent $2.4 mil­lion to buy the land.

Sources said the bor­ough is now look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of build­ing a li­brary at the Benny Farm site, how­ever.

The N.D.G. dis­trict lost its main li­brary this year when the pri­vately run Fraser-Hick­son li­brary closed af­ter it was un­able to get ad­e­quate fund­ing from the city.

Bor­ough mayor Michael Ap­ple­baum has de­fended mov­ing the sports com­plex to Benny Park, say­ing the park’s ex­ist­ing out­door pool re­quires at least $3 mil­lion in re­pairs and is open only three months of the year.

In a state­ment Fri­day, the bor­ough pledged it will not en­large the com­plex.

Ap­ple­baum did not re­turn calls yes­ter­day or Sun­day.

“I sup­ported the change (from Benny Farm to Benny Park), not be­cause it was a per­fect place to put it but be­cause I felt it was bet­ter than the al­ter­na­tives,” said city coun­cil­lor War­ren All­mand, who rep­re­sents Loy­ola ward, where the com­plex would be built.

He said civil ser­vants told the lo­cal coun­cil­lors they couldn’t fit all the fa­cil­i­ties planned for the com­plex on the Benny Farm site, so an­other lo­ca­tion was needed.

The bor­ough would have missed a dead­line to ap­ply for pro­vin­cial govern­ment fund­ing for the project if it had de­layed its ap­proval, All­mand added.

The prov­ince has yet to say whether it will put up half the $15-mil­lion price tag.

The cost to op­er­ate the com­plex is es­ti­mated at $1.6 mil­lion a year, a bor­ough source said.

TYREL FEATH­ER­STONE THE GAZETTE

So­phie Von­drejs (left) and Nonny Rankin in­form N.D.G. res­i­dent Hugues Beau­re­gard about plans for an in­door pool in nearby Benny Park. Von­drejs and Rankin were try­ing yes­ter­day to or­ga­nize op­po­si­tion to the plan.

CITY OF MON­TREAL

Artist’s ren­di­tion of the new Benny Park swim­ming pool shows its “green” roof of grass and shrub­bery.

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