Dissecting the Hallmark Lands Decision

Dear Fellow Residents of Aurora:

Introduction

The role of a Town Council is to make policy decisions in the best interest of its municipality. It is standard practice to be well informed, consider all reasonable options, engage the expertise of staff, and consult with the community at large. By following a well-proven project management methodology, a Town Council can make intelligent decisions based on solid evidence and established planning principals. At all times, the Council must protect the Town’s assets and be fiscally responsible. This is a fundamental way that competent Town Councils operate.

So, if there is a choice between a capital project costing $2 million or $14 million – each of which would achieve the same result – you should be confident that your Town Council will make the right decision.

Would that it were so simple.

Most recently, the Aurora/King Baseball Association (AKBA) gave a presentation to the Aurora Town Council, requesting two Class A baseball diamonds. AKBA has maxed out its existing fields, is turning away young residents, and has a genuine need for baseball tournament facilities. The Association made it very clear that the two diamonds must be adjacent in order to attract and conduct these tournaments. One diamond is not enough. The AKBA also highlighted the beneficial relationship of baseball tournaments with Sport Tourism and the revitalization of the Downtown Heritage Core.

This should have been a relatively straight forward matter to address.

The most sensible and intelligent solution is to repurpose Machell Park from two Class B ball diamonds into two Class A diamonds. Machell Park already has excellent parking and washroom facilities. It is located right in the heart of the Downtown Heritage Core. It is ideal for baseball tournaments. And the cost to establish the two Class A diamonds on this property is very reasonable at around $2 Million.

Instead, for reasons that are impossible to decipher, the Town Council and the Town Staff interpreted the AKBA’s request for two new ball diamonds to mean, “What should we do with the Hallmark Lands?” What an astounding non-sequitur!

In other words, if the AKBA needs two baseball diamonds, why would anyone conclude that those diamonds ought to be located on valuable, economically developable lands? It is the worst possible option. Not only would these diamonds cost more to build – around $3 million, including a new parking lot and washroom facilities – but they would completely devalue the lands. And they would be more two kilometers away from the downtown core.

Conservatively speaking, the Hallmark Lands are now worth no less than $11 million. These lands are a valuable asset for our town. They can be used for economic development. The latest idea being floated is to locate a state-of-the-art medical campus on this property. A medical campus would attract numerous investors from both inside and outside Aurora. It would create good jobs and generate significant tax revenues. And in contrast to baseball diamonds, the medical campus would operate all-year round.

If the story isn’t bizarre enough already, the Town Council then made a decision that should boggle every mind in Aurora: they voted against the two baseball diamonds and in favour of one soccer pitch and one ball diamond on the Hallmark lands.

With “one foul swoop”, the Aurora Town Council managed to ruin the AKBA’s desire to hold baseball tournaments while devaluing the Hallmark Lands from $11+ million to zero. This decision defies common sense. It is singularly incompetent. If they had tried to come up with a worse solution, they couldn’t do it. The word “nincompoops” comes to mind.

Why is it that each time the Aurora Town Council is tasked with a major capital project decision, they immediately give away an important asset with no due diligence and with no regard for the financial implications? And then they gloat about the fantastic decision they made. It is utter madness that is costing Aurora taxpayers millions of dollars.

If elected Mayor of Aurora, all this nonsense and all this wasting of taxpayers’ money will stop. We will do our due diligence; we will explore all reasonable options; and we will make decisions that are in your best interest. Under my leadership, the Town Council will be united by one goal: improving the lives of the people of Aurora.

If you agree with the facts – and the interpretation of the facts – expressed in this letter, then I ask for your support on October 22, 2018. If there is anything you disagree with, please contact me at (905) 506-0571 or john@johnabel.ca. I would be more than happy to discuss.

Sincerely,

John Abel

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