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Soccer fields: a win for everyone

April 17th,2024 | Opinion

What fantastic news! The soccer field in Chelsea’s centre village may very well be saved. While nothing is signed yet, the announcement that a compromise has been reached is a huge win for the community.

Kudos to Mayor Pierre Guénard and his DG for convincing the CSSPO school board to reduce the school’s footprint so that only the Chelsea Foundation’s parking lot needs to be acquired. Kudos also go out to the Foundation for dutifully communicating and defending the importance of preserving the shared green space while also working to find a compromise behind the scenes.

Both parties were backed into a tough spot. Thanks to new Bill 40 requirements, the municipality was forced to provide land for a long-overdue school. The Foundation had no choice but to fight hard for the protection of its fields or risk betraying the community members whose goodwill, donations and sweat equity created the recreational hub in the first place, not to mention breaking its promise to preserve the lands in perpetuity.

A lot was at stake. Had the municipality gone through the morally repugnant move of expropriating charity-owned lands, it would have created a festering wound that would have divided the community for years to come. A compromise that saves the field is a huge win.

But the deal is far from sealed. At press time, the Foundation had only the information released in the CSSPO press release (that’s how they found out) and a subsequent statement from the municipality. There are many details to work out: financial compensation for the parking lot, acquiring CARGO’s land, plans for traffic and parking, actual property boundaries, a clause that would protect the Foundation lands from a future round of expropriation when the school needs to expand, and the list goes on. With so many details to address, the devil can still kybosh a good deal.

That’s why, going forward, it’s crucial for council and the municipality to see the Foundation as a partner – as opposed to an obstacle – that they should actively seek out to help in the decision-making. 

To date, the municipality has been too opaque on this critically important issue. Instead of surprising the land-owner (the Foundation) with its agenda to acquire the field, imagine if, from the very start, Chelsea had actively sought out the Foundation to say, “We need your help finding a solution to this problem that’s very difficult but hugely important to everyone in the community.” All that fighting and frustration might have been avoided.

But still, Guénard is to be congratulated – he did push back and score a win for his community. That success will be extended even further if he, council and staff open up communications with the Foundation and other involved players as they get to the challenging job of hammering out the details of this very positive deal for Chelsea as a whole.

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