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Island View Heights residents raise concerns over proposed Ball Hockey Facility in Saint John


A group that intends on building a year-round ball hockey facility in Saint John, N.B., is facing off against community members who live in the neighbourhood the proposed project will be built in.

Island View Heights is a quiet neighbourhood on Saint John’s west side. However, residents are concerned the proposed ball hockey facility on Manawagonish Road will make things a lot busier.

The plan is for the facility to have two pads, one indoor and one outdoor, as well as a lounge area where drinks can be sold and 80 parking spots.

Before work can begin, city council must approve the rezoning of the property to support the venue.

“It’s always been a quiet traditional sort of self contained area where people are friendly,” says Denise Johnston, who claims to have lived in the neighbourhood longer than anyone else, outside of her 99-year old mother. “We know our neighbours and look out for one another and it’s a beautiful backdrop.”

Johnston says residents have a number of concerns about the facility coming to their neighbourhood, including increased noise, increased traffic and the impact for properties that back onto the development.

Last week, residents voiced their concerns at a Planning Advisory Committee held by the city and presented a petition signed by 56 members of the community fighting against the facility being built in their neighbourhood.

Johnston says the signatures on that petition have since grown.

“We all want the facility,” Johnston says. “We all want the sport to expand in Saint John and New Brunswick and beyond. Just not in this specific location with the neighbourhood that is going to be disrupted permanently.”

Rania Malik’s family once owned the property the purposed facility will be built on. When they sold it, she says the family was under the impression the site would be turned into townhouses or garden homes.

“This is so far on the opposite side of what I thought would be built in this area,” Malik says. “I feel like promises were made, but I mean business comes first right?”

According to Malik, the developer talked about it being a place for youth to come and play.

“I’m sure it would be a great enterprise in a lot of places in the city, I just don’t think stable residential is the spot for it.”

Malik also fears there won’t be enough parking when tournaments come to town. She says the neighbourhood does not have great street parking, with some areas not even having sidewalks.

“I think this really needs a traffic impact study to see how it will affect the neighborhood,” Malik notes. “And in this area of the city we don’t even have reliable city transit.”

Renaud Barriére is the project manager for the purposed facility, already owning multiple ball hockey rinks in Quebec. A day after the Planning Advisory Committee meeting, Barriére met with area residents to hear their concerns first hand.

“We’re not bullies, we work out of respect and that’s the truth,” Barriére says. “If the whole process goes through I told the neighborhood just come and see us and talk to us. If there are legit concerns while we are going we will do our best to ensure we are living in harmony.”

“We did feel that we were listened to,” Johnston admits. “They have there set parameters in mind as we believe we have to do as well. I think we have given each other some really serious food for thought and will have some new ideas once we present to council next week.”

One of the biggest concerns residents have is post game tailgate parties. He says programming at the facility would never be past 11:30, expect for overtime and shootouts, and notes those who are enjoying a few beverages after a game would be doing so at the lounge.

“In Quebec we don’t allow that, and we won’t allow that in Saint John,” Barriére promises. “If you’re going outside the facility and going to your car, you might talk to a few people but you won’t have a drink there. We will kick the people out if they are doing so.”

Barriére also address concerns related to the Cedar Hill Cemetery that shares a property line with the proposed rink. He assures residents programming will not interfere with any burials or ceremonies that may take place on the site, and will work with cemetery officials to ensure a healthy relationship between the two parties.

The topic will be on Saint John City Council’s agenda for their next meeting on Oct. 3, where both parties will have one last chance to share their side.

If the project is approved, Barriére says construction will begin once the snow melts in the spring.

Gary Crossman is the vice president for the New Brunswick Ball Hockey Association, and says the facility would be the first of it’s find in the province.

“When we go to nationals and all that stuff they see these facilities and they’re like ‘we need them,’” Crossman says of his players. “Everyone else has them and we need them. Finally we have a chance and they are so excited.”

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