Latest round in Immaculata turf battle

By Lorne Abugov

Concerned community members took their case to the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) on March 27th in a bid to demand consultation and delay construction of a new $2-million artificial turf sports field at Immaculata High School set to commence this month.

The OOE residents, many of whom live on streets which dead-end against the school’s existing sports field, were blindsided when the OCSB announced in late February that it had reached an agreement with a private soccer organization, Footy Sevens, to build a new lighted turf field to replace Immaculata’s ageing facilities.

Field that was constructed by Footy Sevens at Heart Lake High School in Branpton. Photo from the Bramptonist

Field that was constructed by Footy Sevens at Heart Lake High School in Branpton. Photo from the Bramptonist

Under the deal, Footy Sevens will pay the full costs of the new turf field, due for completion in September, while the Board funds a new synthetic running track. The soccer group would also pay costs associated with the installation of lighting and fencing surrounding the facility. The turf field will be used by students on weekdays and by Footy Sevens on weekday evenings 6 pm to 11 p.m. and weekends.

Joanne Lostracco, of Glenora Street, who spearheaded the neighbours’ campaign to engage the Board in public consultation, was among about 30 community members at the OCSB meeting. Lostracco joined with other neighbours and the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) in calling upon the Board to delay the project pending public consultation to discuss alternative arrangements for improving the field.

Like others in OOE, Lostracco was astonished to learn about the project for the first time when it was posted a month ago on the Board’s website.

”People were shocked. People were not informed,” Lostracco told the Ottawa Citizen back on March 1st, noting at the time the project’s potential to significantly disrupt the neighbourhood. “I’m willing to talk about it and I think many neighbours are willing to talk about it, but nobody asked.”

Lostracco got her chance to address the Board at the meeting, where she argued that the OCSB’s failure to consult on the multi-million, multi-year, sole-source project left the community with no avenue to mitigate its concerns. Chief among the issues she cited were continued free community access, excessive lighting and noise at night, fencing concerns, drainage and other environmental questions regarding the synthetic turf, and increased traffic and on-street parking.

In a document prepared for the meeting, the Board acknowledged that it decided against initiating public consultation before concluding its private agreement with Footy Sevens.

“The use of the sports field is not changing, it is being enhanced (…), “ the OCSB stated. “Given that the school’s existing sports field is still being used as a sports field, a public consultation was not initiated. Had the field been changed to another use such as an arena or if a dome had been planned then public consultation would have been part of the school and Board process.”

OOECA took exception to the OCSB ‘s decision to bypass the public discussion of neighbourhood concerns In a strongly-worded March 23 letter to the Board.

“ In this case, the OCSB has demonstrated a very bad example of how a publicly funded board consults,” wrote OOECA President Phyllis Odenbach Sutton. “To simply announce a major change without any actual consultation with neighbours and the community at large would be indefensible were it a private entity or a municipal government.”

The Board indicated that free community access to the turf field could happen under the agreement in cases where neither Footy Sevens nor Immaculata have use for the field. However, participants at the meeting and the OOECA agreed that the proposed arrangements for community access were vague and inadequate.

On one point, there was no dispute – all parties agreed that the existing field at Immaculata is long overdue for an overhaul and that students will benefit dramatically from enhanced athletic facilities.

(As the Mainstreeter went to press, a written response from the Board dated March 29 announced that an open information drop-in session has been convened at the Immaculata library on Thursday, April 12 from 4 to 6 p.m. at which “input will be solicited on reasonable adjustments that can be made to the proposed fencing, community access, and the use of trees, etc, to mitigate impact on neighbouring properties”.)

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One Response to "Latest round in Immaculata turf battle"

  1. Great article Lorne. Can you let people know that Neighbours for Community Fields have started a Go Fund Me page to help with the legal fees to help get an injunction against the school But we need money to get this done, and really need the help of the community.
    Please visit our gofundme page:
    https://www.gofundme.com/neighbours-for-community-fields

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