News Local

New rec centres, libraries in the plans

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Recreation centre and library facilities will be considered in the Salem and Hewitt areas by city councillors Monday, to be endorsed in principle – meaning .
new ice rinks, swimming pools, fitness centres, gymnasiums, soccer fields, tennis/pickleball courts, splashpads, basketball courts, playgrounds and skateparks. Contributed image

Recreation centre and library facilities will be considered in the Salem and Hewitt areas by city councillors Monday, to be endorsed in principle – meaning . new ice rinks, swimming pools, fitness centres, gymnasiums, soccer fields, tennis/pickleball courts, splashpads, basketball courts, playgrounds and skateparks. Contributed image

South-Barrie will be more than thousands of houses, townhomes, stores and businesses when its future finally rolls out.

Much more.

New mixed-use recreation centres and libraries will be considered in the Salem and Hewitt areas by city councillors Monday, to be endorsed in principle.

That eventually means new ice rinks, swimming pools, fitness centres, gymnasiums, soccer fields, tennis/pickleball courts, splashpads, basketball courts, playgrounds, skateparks, etc.

And two new libraries.

“Up until now it's been a concept that has been generally agreed to, in principle, but the devil is in working through all the details,” said Barrie Public Library board chairman Ray Duhamel. “Here's actually what the facilities will be.”

The Hewitt facility would go on the west side of Yonge Street, north of Lockhart Road on 18 acres of what is now farmland. It's to be in the city's capital plan between 2021 and 2023, and carries an $84-million cost.

Coun. Sergio Morales, who represents the area where the Hewitt facility would go, said Thursday it can't come soon enough.

“South-east Barrie has waited long enough for a rec centre/library,” he said. “I'd still like to see it bumped up a year or two so it is in sync with any housing developments in the (former Innisfil) lands.”

Morales said it's important to learn from mistakes made in Ward 9 the previous decade - putting in housing first and the supporting infrastructure later - pointing to the Mapleview Drive widening.

“The same urgency applies to the rec centre/library this decade,” he said.

The Salem facility would go on the south side of Mackay Road West, just east of Simcoe County Rd. 27 on about 20 acres of land, again farmland right now. It's to be in council's capital plan between 2026 and 2028, at a cost of nearly $74.5 million.

Morales said he does have a problem with the Hewitt facility's price tag, however, but also a possible solution.

“A growing city needs facilities that match that growth, that's just a reality, but an $84- million price tag is not going to fly with me,” he said. “We're already getting savings by building the library and rec centre as one facility, instead of two standalone ones, and I also strongly believe that a new rec centre without any historical names is the perfect opportunity to use our corporate sponsorship strategy.

“If major corporate sponsors are willing to partner with the city for naming rights and save taxpayers millions, I have no problem with that as long as it fits in, in a community setting.”

Barrie, of course, already has a number of recreation centres – Allandale, Barrie Molson Centre, East Bayfield, Eastview Arena and Holly Community Centre. There are ice rinks, pools and fitness spaces for youths, seniors and everyone in between.

And there are two Barrie Public Library branches, in the downtown and in Painswick.

But city staff say current facilities simply don't have the capacity to serve the anticipated population growth in the Salem and Hewitt areas.

Duhamel, a planning consultant by profession, said the endorsement in principle from council allows city staff to start planning the future delivery of these facilities.

“I think it formalizes something that everybody understood already,” he said, noting everything until now was done as part of the secondary plan process, the infrastructure implementation plan, the financial impact assessment and the secondary plan schedules – all growth-management related.

“These are big, important community facilities,” Duhamel said of the planning that still needs to be done. “It's big money.”

The city's plans for these two facilities don't specify exactly when they would be built.

Barrie Public Library, the downtown branch, was built in 1996 and is 56,200 square feet, while Painswick is 15,000 sq. ft. and was built in 2011. The city's library operating budget is just more than $8 million this year.

The plans councillors will be considering Monday include a Hewitt library branch of 15,400 sq. ft. and a Salem branch of 24,400 sq. ft.

The city's library board has spoken about three new branches, including in the the Holly area of 15,000 sq. ft. But in November of 2012, city councillors turned down a feasibility study on leasing space in southwest Barrie, including the financial implications, for a Holly library branch.

There had been earlier indications about a lack of interest from councillors. Earlier that year, council removed $350,000 for a Holly library branch from its 2012 budget.

Library officials had previous plans for a new 12,000-square-foot branch, at Holly Community Centre, costing $7.6 million, but council did not approve them.

The Barrie-Innisfil Boundary Adjustment Act of 2009 transferred 5,770 acres from Innisfil to Barrie on Jan. 1, 2010.

Development plans for this huge area have been formulated slowly by the last two city councils.

The Hewitt's and Salem secondary plans are where 41,000 people are to live by 2031. About 5,700 units would be built in the Salem plan, 10,000 units in the Hewitt's plan.

These areas will hold 60% of Barrie's population growth to 2031; the remaining 40% will be within the city's old borders.

This city's population is to grow from 147,000 now to an estimated 210,000 by 2031.

The Salem Secondary Plan and the Hewitt's Secondary Plan were both approved by Barrie city council in June 2014.

Plans for the development of these areas continue to march forward.

Also on Monday, a public meeting will be held on rezoning and subdivision draft plans in the Big Bay Point Road and Mapleview Drive East ares to build 1,063 houses, 192 semi-detached homes, 242 townhouses and 67 mixed use or apartment units.

bbruton@postmedia.com