Jennifer McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A new plan outlines Whitchurch-Stouffville’s strategy to optimize leisure and community services to 2032 and beyond.
Jonathan Hack, director of Sierra Planning and Management, presented key components and recommendations of the town’s 160-page Leisure and Community Services Master Plan at the Sept.21 council meeting.
The comprehensive plan culminates five months of consultations with the Leisure and Community Services Department staff and internal and external stakeholders, including council and public members, volunteer groups, and organized sports associations.
The proposed strategy ensures equitable access to programs, events, and facilities while promoting healthy and active living and optimal use of facilities and park services for the next decade.
It’s vital to consider the town’s projected growth – almost 22,000 more residents by 2032, and its ongoing diversification.
With a target allocation of 2.0 hectares (4.9 acres) of parkland per 1,000 residents, approximately 57.1 hectares (141.0 acres) of parkland is needed by 2032 to accommodate population growth in Whitchurch-Stouffville.
“There’s a little bit of sticker shock, but there are processes in place to make sure there are different ways to obtain the parkland,” said Hack.
Improving the parkland dedication requirement for developers is one option. The use of non-green spaces in high-density areas is another.
“When we’re talking about planning for growth, we’re not just talking about building new and planning for it, but it is best use of existing facilities – and you have some great facilities in town,” he said. “And the concept of multi-use, as opposed to dedicated, is a principle I think will be on the table for a number of things.”
Despite the plan’s timeline to 2032, Hack emphasized the necessity to consider the future well beyond the ten years to ensure maximum flexibility and accommodation.
“Look at the (Stouffville Clippers Sports Complex) as a good example. That’s a fairly hemmed-in, constrained site. It’s a very good building, but had it been a greenfield location slightly out of town, you might be adding arenas to that site. We can’t do that, so we have to look elsewhere,” he explained.
“Going elsewhere” is in the form of a recommendation to build a 150,000-200,000 square foot multi-use complex with surrounding land for expansion.
Suggested amenities include a multi-tank indoor aquatic centre, two ice surfaces, a fitness centre, indoor soccer facilities, and a gymnasium.
The estimated cost is about $110 million based on comparable facilities in other municipalities.
“As towns grow, revenues grow,” Hack said, suggesting that tax assessments and development charges get used to fund the construction. He also suggested that feasibility studies could assess, for example, private versus municipal ownership of the ice surfaces.
The detailed plan outlines several other items, including expanding sports fields and outdoor sporting amenities, improving the active transportation network, improving resources for heritage and events, staffing existing and new infrastructure, and revitalizing volunteerism after the negative impacts of COVID-19.
Given the extensive list of recommendations, Hack recommended that the town starts to invest immediately.
“These items – they take some cash. I would suggest that in the 2023 budget, you start looking at ways that we can fund some of these projects. It’s easy enough for us to say, sitting here, let’s get started and let’s commence and implement them. But could you please ensure when you’re looking at the forecast for budgets, that we do put some costs in to cover off these capital items?” said Ward 2 Councillor Maurice Smith, addressing the town’s finance staff.
The council motioned to commence implementing the Leisure and Community Services Master Plan, on which reporting will occur annually.
Photo: Though the Stouffville Clippers Sports Complex is a “good building,” the site has no room for expansion to accommodate Whitchurch-Stouffville’s growing population.