Residents in Komoka, just west of London, are speaking out against a proposal to sell off their community centre and part of the surrounding park and turn it into a privately run athletic training and health-care facility.
“(My family and I) have lived here for 39 years, and we have been heavily involved in many of the volunteer activities,” said Komoka resident Paul Miniely, co-organizer of a campaign — dubbed Save the Park — opposing the proposed development. “We’ve done thousands upon thousands of hours of fundraising.
"To see the township disregard all the work that all those volunteers have done by inserting a commercial development into the middle of the park, it’s offensive. Park land should never be sold.”
The municipality of Middlesex Centre has considered declaring the Komoka community centre surplus property after a London-area orthopedic surgeon proposed buying it to develop a state-of-the-art athletic training, coaching and health-care facility.
The centre at 133 Queen St. sits on nearly 29 acres (11.7 hectares) of municipally owned park land and serves as a hub for the community of nearly 2,000, offering everything from meeting rooms and banquet halls to indoor sports such as badminton, floor hockey and basketball.
“It’s become an icon for Komoka, Kilworth and surrounding areas, for team sports,” said Paul Houghton, who also heads the campaign. “It really serves a unique purpose to the community.”
If approved, the new athletic and health-care facility would use up to six acres (2.45 hectares), with the municipality retaining the surrounding park and greenspace. Any amenities located near the land for sale would be replaced at the cost of the buyer, either in the park or at a nearby facility, according to Middlesex Centre.
Michael Di Lullo, the municipality’s top administrator, said it was “disheartening” to see some of the concerns being raised by community members, especially because he feels many weren’t aware of the project's full scope.
“We're not selling the park,” he said, adding what made this specific proposal appealing to council is “the opportunity to provide health services to our residents."
Council was asked to consider declaring the Komoka community centre surplus April 6, but deferred a decision amid rising concerns from the community. More than 100 letters, many from worried residents, have since been submitted to council. An online petition in opposition to the proposed sale had nearly 800 signatures as of last week.
The municipality has owned the Komoka park lands since 1925.
An online meeting for people wishing to express concerns or learn of the project details is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. Councillors vote May 4 on whether to declare the site surplus.
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press