By Anna Smith
Five delegations each in their own way made passionate expressions of their opinions known to Cypress County Council Feb. 7. The delegation members ensured they made their concerns heard over the proposed placement of the promised Irvine Community Resource Centre which will feature the new library.
The site is currently none other than the Woodward Memorial park, a space that’s destruction would be too high a cost for many members of the hamlet, including Dennis Bollinger, president of the Irvine Lion’s Club.
“As was stated in a letter that was presented to council back in January, we encourage development in Irvine, but if that means destroying the park that’s existing there, that’s totally unacceptable to us,” said Bollinger.
Bollinger’s delegation noted, alongside many of the following delegations, that they were not opposed to the idea of a new library, but disliked the location and felt their concerns had not been taken into account, nor had the reasoning for the selected site had ever been properly explained as compared to any other site.
While many both with Cypress County administration and those citizens from Irvine viewed the delegations as a step in the right direction, it was also strongly expressed that these talks should have happened during previous meetings at the library or public engagement attempts.
There was no mention of the proposed location of the library in meetings such as the 2017 Irvine Area Structure Plant noted resident Marina Cole.
“They had nothing pertaining to the placement of the library. What was brought up, and I quote, ‘the library may continue to operate from its current location and existing building despite being located in a road if the library moves as you continue to operate from a central downtown location in order to encourage activity to this area,’” stated Cole.
She continued on to explain that the first she and many residents had heard of the location in question was in April of 2022, where she felt that there was an all or nothing mentality from Cypress County councillors present at the meeting.
Other concerns included a lack of available parking at the intended location, which could cause congestion in the streets for businesses and homeowners on that side of town, and the handling of a large collection of resident signatures — that at the time — had not been instructed on how to submit an official petition.
The sentiment of the building going against the spirit in which the land was originally donated by the Woodward family was also strong on the minds of many residents, said Darren Lutz, another longtime Irvine resident.
“This property was donated to be a park, not (just) for a certain given time, but until the end of time. The Town of Irvine no longer exists and it’s now part of Cypress County but the spirit of her and its surrounding areas does still exist. We defend our park and its history and beauty,” explained Lutz. “We deserve to be heard, and today we are delivering our message to you. No one has any opposition to the Community Resource Centre being placed in Irvine and we welcome it. Our opposition is to the location that has been chosen. We don’t understand why we must give up our park in order to receive a Community Resource Centre. Why can’t we have both?”
Several of the delegations suggested that a suitable place for the Centre may be found on the opposite end of town, near Irvine School and the sporting facility, but there was a strong sentiment that anywhere but the park would be a preferred option.
One delegation, simply suggested that a philosophy of “measuring twice and cutting once” might be applied to the issue, and implored the County to measure again, while the following expressed concern for the removal of the trees that were present on site, due to their age and significance not only to the community, but to the local environment due to their age.
“As a relative of Albert and Agnes Woodward, former residents of Irvine, my family and I want to comment on the current plans for the Woodward Memorial Park and the potential new library and community,” said Deborah Colley, a Woodward Family Member. “The idea of the new building being built with the intention of community gathering is a fantastic idea. We’re so happy the cCounty is wanting to invest in the community. The new library sounds like a place where everyone can go and hold value and make presidents of Irvine proud. Our hope is to ensure that our grandparents’ wishes, made so long ago, are being honoured. Woodward Memorial Park is a permanent part of Irvine history that we would like to stay intact.”
Colley expressed hope that the site, with the sentimental and historical value to her family and the hamlet, would be preserved.
Cypress County released a statement following the end of the public County Council meeting, stating that they were “grateful to see the level of passion and engagement regarding the Irvine Community Resource Centre as shown through five delegations today and dozens of letters submitted and received by council at today’s meeting.”
“We appreciate that everyone – citizens, council, and staff – have the same goal in mind: to improve the Hamlet of Irvine for generations to come. How we get there may not always be pleasant, but we need to listen and work together to move forward,” said the County.
All of the given feedback will be given careful consideration prior to the upcoming meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when council will make a decision on the future of the Irvine Community Resource Centre.