New field deal at Immaculata halts kids’ sledding fun

By: Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay

Years of winter weekend sledding fun for young children came to an abrupt end this year, with the installation of chain link fencing around Immaculata High School’s athletic field. This latest reminder of the changed use of the field have prompted residents to ask whether any new developments have occurred in relation to issues arising from the field’s changeover.

As many Old Ottawa East residents will remember, this past summer the Ottawa Footy Sevens, a private soccer business, installed an artificial turf field, sports lights, and fencing at Immaculata.

Footy Sevens converted the sports field into a home for their adult recreational “7-a-side” soccer league, as an outcome of their 21-year license agreement with the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB).

The OCSB has stated that neither the school nor the board will receive any revenue from the field rental arrangement. Instead, the school has the use of the Footy Seven’s artificial turf for the school’s programming, and also saves on field maintenance costs.

The dollar figure for anticipated maintenance cost savings has not been disclosed.

Last August, the City of Ottawa’s Planning Committee voted in amendments to the Site Plan Control Agreement that governs the Immaculata property. These amendments included provisions for artificial turf and sports lights (after the fact, since the turf and sports lights had already been installed), and also stipulated that the sports lights would be turned off by 9 PM Monday to Thursday, and 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

The OCSB has launched an appeal of the lighting restrictions with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) – formerly the Ontario Municipal Board – and advised the City that, pending the outcome of the appeal, the school board would allow the Footy Sevens to run their hourly, 7-a-side, three simultaneous games until 11 PM seven days a week.

An LPAT hearing had been scheduled for January 16, 2019, but two days before the date, the hearing was adjourned at the request of the OCSB’s legal counsel. As The Mainstreeter went to press, a new hearing date had not yet been scheduled.

In the past, the Immaculata field had been rented out to community sports groups by the City. Some of these groups, such as the Ottawa Beavers and the Banshees Rugby Club, have been displaced by the Footy Sevens’ field licence, and they have recently approached the Old Ottawa East Community Association to explore alternate possibilities for a reliable athletic training field.

Another ongoing issue involves the application of property tax: as a publicly-funded school, Immaculata is exempt from paying property tax, yet the field has been licensed to Footy Sevens for intensive commercial use from March to November; moreover, the school’s parking lots are available free of charge to the Footy Sevens’ clients.

The City’s Finance department is currently assessing the property tax implications of this new form of commercial use of a publicly-funded school property. With Spring fast approaching, many residents will continue to monitor these and other issues that have been brought about from changes to the field’s use.

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Filed in: Community Groups, FP, Front Page, News Tags: , , , ,

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