By Sean McIntosh
Belleville YMCA is asking the city to give back land it surrendered to the city in the 1980s.
YMCA board member John Mastorakos spoke to city council last night regarding the land behind the YMCA on Victoria Avenue. Mastorakos says that the land was wrongly taken away from the YMCA and should be given back. He says that a deal was made in the 1950s between the YMCA and the city of Belleville that would exempt the Y from paying taxes. He says however, that in the 1980s, land owned by the YMCA was taken in lieu of tax payments, in contravention of the deal.
“We come to the city asking for an error, on everybody’s part, to be corrected, and I say on everybody’s part because we can’t figure out why the city continued to charge property taxes,” Mastorakos said.
Even though the YMCA’s representatives are asking for the land to be returned to the company, there is still no guarantee on what they will do with the land after it is acquired. Mastorakos stressed that the YMCA’s attendance at the city council meeting did not mean they intend to build on the land.
“We’re here to ask for it on the basis of righting a wrong, we’re not here to say that we’ll look at various options because quite frankly that to me creates extra layers as we try to figure out where we’re going to go,” he said.
There are two possibilities for the Y if it gets the land back.
“Certainly they’re expressing their desire to have that land that was formerly in their name back, for their purposes of either potentially expanding on that site or for leverage in obtaining funding for the sale of the property for a future build somewhere else,” said Matt MacDonald, Belleville City Clerk.
Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis put it in simpler terms.
“If (the YMCA) got this land back the footprint might be big enough to expand, and if not it would make the land more valuable to sell to put that money towards another YMCA,” said Mayor Ellis.
Regional Director for Belleville and Quinte YMCA, Dave Allen wasn’t definitive before council regarding which direction the Y would go. He said that the YMCA in Belleville is going to need to expand either the current YMCA or create a larger building, in order to gain more members
“We want to build where the people are going to come. It’s the new people that will support the Y,” said Allen.
Allen said that being given back the land they lost in the 1980s would make things simple for either expanding on the current land or moving to a new location.
“If we couldn’t have the land back it would just make everything more complicated,” he said.