A Toronto city councillor is accusing Metrolinx of reneging on a commitment to provide land for a community centre in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood.
In a letter to the regional transit authority dated July 16, Coun. Anthony Perruzza says “Metrolinx has always maintained” that it would “be contributing a parcel of land” in the Finch Avenue West and Yorkgate Boulevard area to build the neighbourhood hub.
But Perruzza, who represents Ward 7, Humber River-Black Creek, writes that he has since been told by Metrolinx officials that it intends to sell the land at market value.
“It is disheartening to receive an update suggesting that your position has changed and that you are seeking market value for these same lands,” his letter to Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster reads.
“This would dash the hope of any future community hub.”
The land is located just west of Finch Avenue West and Jane Street in an area that will eventually be served by the Finch West LRT line, which is now under construction. The city has long viewed the area as a priority neighbourhood badly in need of investment.
In his letter, Perruzza tells Verster he will also be hearing from the Community Action Planning Group (CAPG), a neighbourhood organization that’s been trying for years to get the centre built.
“We have all been working to realize this project on behalf of a very needy community for a long time,” the letter reads.
Perruzza goes on to say he was recently told by Metrolinx officials that “the matter of turning the property over to the City/community was in its final stages” but that an email from agency staff dated July 14 said that the agency would “put the land to market when it was no longer needed for the project after 2023.”
“Your abrupt reversal on this matter will end this project,” Perruzza writes, adding that the community “cannot afford to pay market value for this site.”
‘We know this is an important project’
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne-Marie Aikins says the agency will work with the city and the community to find an “innovative solution” to the problem.
But Aikins told CBC Toronto in an interview Wednesday evening that Metrolinx, as a provincial agency, is unable to donate the land or sell it at less than its market price.
“We don’t have the solution right now to this very important community hub,” she admitted.
“It sounded like it was an understanding that the city and the community organization had that we were either going to give them the land or give it to them at a reduced price, or something like that,” she said.
“Our responsibility as a provincial agency is to follow the processes that are built into place, which means we have to sell it at market price.”
Aikins says Metrolinx is willing to find an accommodation with the city and says there’s plenty of time to do that, because the agency doesn’t have to sell the land until the Finch West LRT is finished, which is not until 2023.
“We know this is an important project … and we are going to work with the city.”