Council approves land exchange with Signature Developments

The site of the new indoor recreation centre, and 4,500 seat arena. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The proposed layout for the site of the new large arena and Indoor Recreation Centre has changed following a motion at Monday’s city council meeting.

Council voted 6-3 in favour of exchanging the original 18 acres of land purchase in June 2020 for a different 18-acre section further to the north. The new location will put the city’s land right further north, closer to the Marquis Rd. and Hwy 3. Intersection. The old location was in the far southeast corner of the entertainment district under construction by Signature Developments.

Mayor Greg Dionne said they made the trade after discovering the land in the far southeast corner had too much water to be developed. Instead, Signature Developments will use that area as the site of a retention pond that will run into the City’s storm system.

“It couldn’t even be developed,” Dionne said in an interview after the meeting. “It was that wet.”

Dionne said the exchange was also made to accommodate more parking. Council purchased an additional seven acres of land in May to help meet the need.

Dionne said lack of parking was one of the most common complaints council heard from residents when discussing the recreation centre and large arena site.

Couns. Terra Lennox-Zepp, Charlene Miller and Tony Head all voted against the exchange. Lennox-Zepp was the most vocal critic. She said council wasn’t following the site selection criteria laid out in the city master plan, and urged her colleagues to hold off on approving the exchange for further consultation.

“This report does not provide us with any rational as to why we as a City would prefer this proposal,” Lennox-Zepp said during the meeting. “To me, it is very concerning and alarming that we as a city would simply make this change without any comparables, without doing our homework, and without making a decision that is in the best interest of the city as to the location.”

Council passed the motion after a short discussion that lasted less than four minutes.

When asked about Lennox-Zepp’s concerns after the meeting, Dionne said the benefits of changing the layout, like increased exposure on the corner of Marquis Rd. and Hwy 3, were readily apparent, and didn’t require further study.

“Do you want to be in the front row, or the back row?” he said. “That was an easy one to decide.

“We were far over in the corner. Now we’re right up front.”