Soccer club takes county to court
Posted By CATHY PELLETIER , CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
Wednesday May 12, 2010
While Dunnville soccer players prepare to fight for control of the ball on the fields, a bigger battle has been brewing on the sidelines.
What began as an ongoing debate between Haldimand County and members of the Dunnville Youth Soccer Club erupted into a lawsuit in recent months.
According to the County's Manager of Community Services, Hugh Hanly, "The Soccer Park Corporation took the County to court to determine whether the lease made in 1999 was still valid. The county terminated it in 2008. The judge found that the lease was not valid, and ruled in favour of the County, and directed that the County and the Club negotiate a new lease.
In the meantime, because there's no lease, Dunnville United Soccer Club is willing to take over."
Hanly said the Corporation is in the process of appealing that ruling, but youth soccer will continue as usual in Dunnville, with the Dunnville United Soccer League at the helm of programming, led by Dan Obsteter, President of the Dunnville United Men's League. This marks the first time since 1998 that the Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation hasn't organized programming.
"It's County property," said Hanly, "and just like when you use a ball park, we need an agreement. At the end of the day, we were successful in working with Dunnville United and we didn't want to get this lease thing mixed up in letting the kids play soccer. We're both working toward the same goal."
Hanly added that there are some individuals who "are both Dunnville United Youth Soccer and Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation executives, so it's convoluted trying to determine which side they are on. These guys have done a fantastic job of operating soccer and the County recognizes that," he said. "Not once did the County say, 'Give this to me so we can take over soccer.' If we had to, we would have for the kids, if nobody else had stepped up. We were prepared to get referees and coaches."
In e-mail correspondence dated April 14 of this year, Hanly wrote to Margaret Rose of the Soccer Park Corporation: "I have been advised by Councillor Boyko that your organization will not be running the soccer program in Dunnville this summer. I understand that soccer registration has already taken place and a number of users have registered. I respectfully request that you forward the registrations to Haldimand County, addressed to my attention immediately so that the County can ensure that soccer is Dunnville this year."
According to Marg and Sig Rose, long-time members of the Dunnville Youth Soccer Club, problems that led to the lawsuit go back as far as the early 1990s, when the Cayuga soccer park was developed, and Dunnville Youth Soccer, as a member of Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, assisted in funding the project.
The former Town of Haldimand also provided a grant of $50,000 to assist in facility start-up costs, said Sig Rose. He added that under the terms of the lease that was negotiated, the Cayuga branch of Haldimand Youth Soccer took full responsibility for the maintenance of the park. The Dunnville Soccer Park Corporation (DSPC) was established in 1998, with a goal of building a soccer complex, " because the only decent soccer field in Dunnville was being closed due to a drainage project," said Rose.
"The mayor of the former Town of Dunnville advised there was land available on Logan Road that was earmarked for recreational purposes. If we wanted to request town council to allow us to lease the property, we could develop it into a soccer park.
"Once that request was granted, DSPC, along with the Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, entered into a 40-year lease with the Town of Dunnville, with terms stating that DSPC would be responsible for all development aspects of the soccer park, and that the Town would, in turn, accept responsibility for grass maintenance and garbage collection. This lease was unlike the Cayuga soccer park lease in that the Cayuga soccer organization members wished to maintain the park themselves.
"In addition, the DSPC and town of Dunnville agreed that either party could exit the lease by giving 180 days notice. However, at the DSPC's insistence, a replacement clause was included, due to speculation at the time that the land may be needed for industrial development. We wanted to ensure that our investment of time, labour, and money was protected," said Rose. In the event the town needed the property for industry, they could cancel the lease within 180 days notice. But they would have to provide a similar, alternate facility elsewhere within the town.
"As a result of restructuring in 2000, the Town of Haldimand and the Town of Dunnville were amalgamated into the new County of Haldimand. In 2005, the Caledonia youth soccer group, which was also part of Haldimand Youth Soccer Club, began developing a soccer park on McClung Road, southeast of Caledonia, due to the fact that the County was using land that had a soccer field with lights and a partial fence on it, to build a new arena. To compensate for the loss of the soccer field, the County gave Caledonia soccer $150,000 to assist with construction of the soccer facility. In 2006, the Caledonia branch of Haldimand Youth Soccer entered into a lease agreement with the County in which Caledonia Soccer was responsible for all maintenance, including grass cutting."
Of the three towns, Rose said that Dunnville was the only soccer facility which negotiated to have the grass maintenance designated as a responsibility of the local municipal government, and further claimed that Dunnville was the only park not to receive any funding assistance from the former Town of Dunnville to construct the park.
"In 2007, the Dunnville youth soccer program split from the Haldimand Youth Soccer Club for many reasons," he said, "and became part of the Dunnville United Soccer Club. As a result, HYSC, through legal representation, requested a release from lease with the DSPC with respect to the Dunnville Soccer Park.
"To us, this seemed as easy as replacing HYSC with DUSC, or simply removing HYSC and leaving the agreement as being between DSPC and the County. The County did not agree and invoked the 180-day clause to terminate the lease. Then they offered a new lease, in which they were no longer responsible for grass cutting or garbage pickup, but offered a 65/35 split on grass cutting costs. If the County tting the grass, the DSPC would pay 65 per cent of the cost. If DSPC assumed the task of grass cutting, the County would subsidize by 35 per cent."
The DSPC and the County tried to negotiate a new lease for a couple of years with no compromise, stated Rose. "We finally went to the law firm of Cline, Bakcus in Simcoe to seek advice. Our position from the beginning was that if we build this park, the least the former Town of Dunnville (now the County) can do for us is cut the grass. Unlike Caledonia and Cayuga, we had no other financial assistance from the town or County in building the park. Moreover, the County has given both Caledonia and Cayuga $2,100 per year for the past few years to help with their grass cutting costs, even though both negotiated a lease agreement in which the soccer organizations accepted full responsibility for grass maintenance.
"In 2005, DSPC negotiated with the County to cost share on the construction of a field house, which finally was settled at 50/50, to a maximum of $100,000. The final cost of the building was $212,000. Caledonia recently negotiated a similar agreement. In Dunnville, we also constructed a pavilion, installed lights on one field, added drainage and built an additional five fields on adjacent, privately-owned property, all with no contribution from the County."
County staff were out cutting the grass last week, Hanly said, and have made arrangements to aerate and fertilize the soccer fields, as usual. If all goes as scheduled, the fields should be ready for play by the regular annual starting date of May 20 or so.
Article ID# 2574466
Friday, May 14, 2010
Soccer club takes county to court