A plan to build a clay court tennis facility on the grounds behind the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre has seen opposition since Day 1.
This week the back-and-forth feud got personal, when the Cedar Hill Clay Court Tennis Society publicly called out a vocal opponent for “providing and promoting false information” about the proposal.
“We didn’t want to have to do that, but we were looking at the information that the people opposed this proposal were putting out and it was too often grossly inaccurate,” said John Miller, society president.
“We’re concerned that people will oppose our proposal because of the misinformation they’re receiving. And to tell you the truth, if I didn’t have any other information and I read what this group is putting out, I’d probably be opposed to the proposal.”
The society’s open letter to Lana Burns, a director with the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association, outlines 15 “factually inaccurate” statements the society attributes to her.
The letter covers a wide range of issues highlighted by opponents, including community consultation on the project and the environmental sensitivity of nearby Bowker Creek.
“We accept not everyone will support it. But this isn’t a matter of opinion. This is a matter of giving accurate information,” Miller said. “We want an honest debate.”
Burns said she was taken aback when she read the letter and doesn’t know why she has been singled out.
“I’m not the leader (of the opposition campaign). It’s just loose: it’s people, it’s neighbours,” she said, though she acknowledged she has been active in sharing information about the proposal. “The things Mr. Miller brought up sounded very petty and like half-truths.”
Burns would not respond directly to the society’s comments, but said she felt bullied and threatened by being singled out.
Carol Pickup, a former Saanich councillor who has worked closely with Burns and other opponents, defends the “inaccuracies” Burns was specifically called out for.
“If there is any inaccuracy then it was because it was hard to get information,” Pickup said. “Lana has been trying to get information; she hasn’t met up with very much openness. If you can’t get at the facts, then you can only (make assumptions) based on what was said at (public meetings).”
The society proposes building eight clay tennis courts on land currently occupied by two little-used softball diamonds. It has shared information with the public online, in leaflets and in the QCHCA newsletter. Opponents argue the ball diamonds are often used public greenspace.
A tentative date of Nov. 28 has been set for the proposal to come before Saanich council. Miller plans to spend time before then ensuring the most up-to-date, accurate information is shared with residents.
Burns worries that the community has been left out of the process. While there have been public meetings and consultation, Saanich and the tennis society should step back and broaden its scope to examine the future of the park, she said.
“I am so envious of the people who live near Gyro Park. They have been given years now to talk and discuss what they want to see, what can happen,” she said. “It would be excellent if the communities that border the Cedar Hill Park could actually be part of the discussion of what’s happening, what they would like, what would be best.”
Pickup said some major concerns need to be addressed before council deliberates on the proposal, including an environmental social review. She and Burns both would like to see a clearer set of procedures to ensure the planning and consultation process is more open.
Groups and organizations can approach Saanich with proposals to use or develop municipal land for their interests, but organizations must go through the planning process on their own.
Point of view
Details of the Cedar Hill tennis clay court proposal are available online from three different perspectives:
• http:/www.bit.ly/U9gy2y – District of Saanich
• cedarhillclaytennis.net – Clay Court Tennis Society
• savecedarhillpark.com – Proposal opponents