URGENT – Buttonwood Park-Land Lease for the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation

Dear HVVRA member

Today we became aware of information that may be important to you, and all people of Toronto.  Please see the correspondence below from the president of the Buttonwood Hill Residents Association.  Buttonwood Hill borders the northern border of Humber Valley Village.  Included is the email from Councillor Stephen Holiday.  There is an urgent meeting scheduled tonight between the Buttonwood Hill Residents Association and Stephen Holyday.  The president of the HVVRA, Anne Anderson, will also be attending the meeting.  If you have concerns about the closed process conduct of City Hall and/or the proposed changes to our green space, please contact Stephen Holiday’s office and Mayor Olivia Chow’s office and cc Buttonwood Hills and the HVVRA.

Stephen Holyday:  Councillor_Holyday@toronto.ca
Olivia Chow:  mayor_chow@toronto.ca
Buttonwood Hills Residents Association:  buttonwoodhillresidents@gmail.com
HVVRA: HVVRABoard@gmail.com

Good afternoon Neighbours,

Please see the below message from Councillor received this afternoon advising us of an upcoming vote at Toronto City Council’s meeting next Tuesday, June 18th, without any public meeting or community consultation in our neighbourhood.

We encourage you to please respond to Councillor Holyday’s office and copy us at buttonwoodhillresidents@gmail.com to advise of your position in this regard as soon as possible.  Please also feel free to reach out to our MP, Yvan Baker, our MPP, Kinga Surma and our school board trustee, Markus De Domenico.

We will keep you advised as matters progress, but with the limited amount of time we have to respond, we would ask you to please ensure that your voice is heard.

Kind regards,
Christina Manulak
Buttonwood Hill Residents Association

 

Upcoming Council Decision Regarding Buttonwood Park

June 12, 2024

Dear Resident,

I am writing to let you know of an important upcoming City Council decision regarding Buttonwood Park, located near Royal York and Eglinton Avenue.

A report is to be considered by the Executive Committee on June 18th which would provide a long-term land lease for 3 acres of the public park to the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation (SCCC), a non-profit organization that intends to design, build, finance and operate a new not-for-profit community centre.

The following maps are from the staff report:

The leased public park lands will be used to construct and continuously operate a not-for-profit publicly accessible community recreation and cultural centre, along with ancillary uses such as parking. The building will be used for programming specific to the Somali Community along with other appropriate City and community uses, including recreation.

The City report is seeking to establish, as a condition of the land lease, a shared use agreement with the organization which would provide a minimum of 50 percent of available time in the facility to be open, affordable and accessible to the general public. A public engagement process is anticipated in the future to determine the nature of the community access.

In 2022, City Council directed staff to work with the Somali Centre for Culture
and Recreation Steering Committee in Toronto and the impacted Councillors to explore
potential partnerships for a new community cultural and recreation centre.

It was only earlier this year that as the local member of Council I was advised that a short-listed location was identified in Ward 2 through a confidential process. I learned much of this proposal had been developed in secret since 2022. In April 2024, I asked permission from City Council to inform you that plans were being developed for this public park. However, they denied me the right to give you this information and voted down my motion to seek community consultation. A copy of the motions and vote record may be found here: https://secure.toronto.ca/council/agenda-item.do?item=2024.EX13.4

Given the way that the report has been brought before Council and the prior decision too keep the location secret, there is very little opportunity to gauge local community support for the proposal to lease the Buttonwood park lands for a community centre. There is also very little detail available about the building itself and the potential recreation uses that would be available to the community.

The full report to the Executive Committee for this item under consideration may be found here: https://secure.toronto.ca/council/agenda-item.do?item=2024.EX15.6

This loss of parkland and open space is a significant change to the neighbourhood, as is the construction of a large building and associated transportation impacts. This represents a permanent change to Buttonwood Park and the availability of the park’s amenity to the local neighbourhood. The City has very strong policies which protect parkland from development, and I have serious concerns that this proposal has reached this stage without public consultation and input from residents that are affected.

I would like to know what you think of this proposal, and what questions you may have about it. Please email me at councillor_holyday@toronto.ca or call me at 416-392-4002. Should this proposal advance to Council on June 26, I will be representing the interests of the Etobicoke Centre community and conveying any feedback that comes forward between now and then.

Regards,

Stephen Holyday
Councillor, Ward 2
Etobicoke Centre

Sincerely,
HVVRA Board of Directors
June 13, 2024