A determined group of neighbours is intent on stopping Sault RC Car Club from racing its 1/10-scale electric cars on the Wilcox Park tennis courts, members of the city's parks and recreation advisory committee were told tonight.
"There is significant opposition to this," reported Ward 4 councillor Rick Niro.
The committee decided in May to ask City Council to lease the Wilcox Park courts to the club for two years starting in June 2018.
City staff are hoping to put the question to councillors at their next meeting on Sept. 25.
"There's a significant petition from the neighbourhood opposing this use," Niro told tonight's meeting.
"When this comes to council, they will be there in numbers to try and get this turned down."
"Some of their concerns are not going to go away. We haven't been able to convince them otherwise. There's a few of them that are going to be hardfast. They're going to be at council and they're going to oppose it," Niro said.
Virginia McLeod, the city's manager of recreation and culture, said that the Wilcox Park tennis courts are "not in the greatest condition at this point."
"But the RC cars wouldn't alter the courts in any way, so that if we did decide to convert them back to tennis courts, we would be able to bring them back to their original function without any issues."
McLeod said that 37 people attended an open house in May about the proposed lease to the RC racers.
Many of neighbours were concerned about noise, but they thought the club was planning to use gas-powered scale models.
In fact, the club only allows quiet electric-powered cars, McLeod said.
Other residents had concerns about traffic flow in the neighbourhood, about cars driving too fast – concerns that had nothing to do with RC cars.
McLeod said city staff watched the Wilcox Park courts for two weeks and during that time there was only one occasion when they saw anyone on the courts - just two people who stayed for half an hour.
If additional parking is needed, a part of the park that was previously used for parking could be used again, McLeod said.
But Niro said opponents are turning that argument on its head, claiming that it would be turning park space over to automobiles.
"There's no win on that one," Niro said.
Neighbours are also complaining that park washrooms aren't adequate and the facility will be used "all day and all night long," the councillor said.
McLeod pointed out that high-quality tennis courts are available at North Street Park between Bloor and York, just 700 metres away
Opponents argue that while the Wilcox Park courts may not be used for tennis, they are still well used for other purposes like basketball dribbling or learning to ride bikes.
Niro recounted how he recently saw an elderly lady stopping to sit on a bench there while walking her dog.
"She was on the tennis court taking a rest. The neighbourhood is using it for whatever use they like, and they have gotten very used to that."
Opponents are also claiming that the RC club really isn't for children because the cars cost between $500 and $2,000, Niro said.
Kids can't afford RC cars, they're for adults, the argument goes.
Committee member Mark Kontulainen said that his son bought an RC car this summer and it cost just $68.
"They've come down in price," Kontulainen said.
"Aren't we more interested in seeing our facilities utilized?" said Susan Milne, another committee member.
"Things change. If no one is playing tennis and it can be better utilized for something else, then we should be encouraging that use, not trying to stifle something because it's different," Milne said.
"It's the same thing as neighbours trying to stop children from playing in a park. Like, come on!"
The Sault RC Car Club has operated for 10 years from a variety of local venues: Thompson Farms, Runway Park and the former Alexander Henry High School.
The club participates in Rotaryfest and Essar and Tenaris family days and wants to host additional clinics and community events at Wilcox Park.