Citizens raise concerns about plans for Trent Research and Innovation Park

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By Olivia Timm

PETERBOROUGH-Concerned Peterborough citizens brought forward environmental and Indigenous concerns to council last night in regards to the approved Trent Research and Innovation Park plans.

The 85-acre park that will be situated on Trent’s East Bank behind the DNA buildings could see development begin sometime in 2018, and envisions becoming “Canada’s premier clean technology research and innovation site. 

However, Debbie Jenkins says the project raises red flags in terms of leaving environmental aspects out of the discussion. Jenkins, a PhD candidate at Trent and wildlife biologist, said that Trent consists of over 800 wildlife species – 21 of which are known to be at risk.

Jenkins also stated that none of the park’s plans or diagrams show that the site consists of major wildlife sanctuaries and wetlands, which she tells council are “an integral part of Trent.” She continued by saying, “for development that is supposed to be green, it seems that would have been a platform for a start is to actually look at the environment to put in green buffers and really take an approach that protects the environment.”

Another concerned citizen, Victoria Belbin, is working on the Indigenous consultation group and told council that since the Trent Park will be taking place on Indigenous land, the surrounding Indigenous people should have been consulted prior to any work being done.

Her question for council to consider is why Indigenous folks were left out in the first place. “This is not our land…and we need to make space for Indigenous folks in these discussions.”

She asks that this “trend” of leaving Indigenous decisions out of council meetings should be stopped.

Trent University President Leo Groarke brought a more positive light to the discussion by saying, “we are privileged to have a strong education sector, it is one of the pillars of Peterborough’s prosperity.”

He told council members and the audience that some of the benefits that will come from the research park is attracting new businesses and creating jobs.

There are currently 26 parks that exist across the province that contribute to 65,000 jobs at various levels of occupations.

Groarke also gave comfort to some of the concerns raised by not only enforcing how great the relationship between the university and the city is, but also that the City has the responsibility to drive this master plan forward.

“We should celebrate [the bond between our university and the City] and this is just another way we can thank you for that relationship.”

The Trent Research and Innovation Park (TRIP) has six design principles:

  • Be integrated with Trent’s main campus physically, visually and socially
  • Foster an innovation community culture encouraging social interaction and collaboration in all seasons
  • Be a leader in sustainable design
  • Be based on a design strategy that is landscape-led to maintain natural features and existing topography
  • Be flexible to accommodate a range of enterprises and uses in a unique setting
  • Be well-connected to the City, County and Region

Peterborough’s subdivision planner Brad Appleby shed some light on a loose financial plan in terms of payback to the City.

Appleby said, “in a nutshell, the university and city have agreed that the lease payment will be front-ended in the City’s favour in the initial phases of the park.”

The current plan is:

  • First 10 years: 80% will go to the City and 20% will be retained by the university
  • Second 10 years: 60% City and 40% university
  • Third 10 years: 50%/50%

At this point, it will then swing in favour of the university.

Appleby also clarified that in terms of an environmental species assessment, the public can access it on the City’s website.

It was at this time that things got a tad heated on council’s end. After being quieted by committee chair Coun. Parnell several times, Coun. Riel continued to question why this plan was not held in closed session to discuss the financial implications.

Chief administrative officer Allan Seabrooke answers the question by stating, “We are aiming at transparency here…Budget discussions are public.”

Groarke spoke a second time and summed up the project by saying,

“It wont happen over one year or two years that is the bad news but the good news is that it will develop.”

Council will make its final approval for the research park sometime in September and will start development early next year.

Coun. Pappas praised Trent on reinventing themselves in the last few years to further knowledge-based jobs.

“This really is a great partnership and setting up of all of Peterborough.”

Coun. Clarke also added that the synergy between youth and the City is key.  

“This is a good news story for the community.”