Opponents of the city’s plan to convert the change rooms at the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre into one gender-neutral change room rallied outside city hall on Monday afternoon and then spoke to city councillors at Monday night’s city council meeting.
About 50 people rallied outside before the meeting, carrying signs criticizing the city’s transparency in coming up with the proposed change room configuration for the Brealey Drive facility in the west end of the city.
The survey originally used to gauge people’s responses was not proper in its delivery or the questions that it asked, said Lindsay Shaddy, co-chair of the Committee for Changeroom Choice.
“This was not a proper survey. It was a slap dash set of questions poorly written and meant to illicit answers they wanted,” Shaddy said. “They did not even ask the question if people wanted one universal change room or to keep the choice we have right now, which is men’s, women’s and universal.”
Shaddy is upset by the city’s response to the group’s concerns.
“I wrote to the city to ask them why they did not include that question and the response I got was the three change room design was not an option,” Shaddy said. “This is shocking. People unknown made this decision without any public consultation whatsoever.”
Other municipalities usually have a long public consultation process to engage citizens in proposals like this, she said.
“We know other communities have done them (surveys) because we have researched this,” Shaddy said. “Even the city of Golden, B.C., population of 3,700 did a survey before they designed their recreation centre and they had over 1,000 responses.”
City council decided March 1 to do another survey by April 2 before making a final decision.
But city community services commissioner Sheldon Laidman has warned that any change to the proposed design would push this summer’s planned construction to next year, risking the lose of $1 million in provincial funding.
The city came up with the proposed designed based on responses from less than 90 people, Shaddy said.
“This is something that needs to be brought to public attention,” Shaddy said.
“In a city doing its due diligence this would all have been well publicized in advance with a great deal of public consultation before a decision is made.”
The city then moved right to the planning stage, she said.
“Somehow, the city engaged an architect and had detailed plans before any consultation was done and we found out,” Shaddy said.
“Now, we are hearing there is a great sense of urgency from city staff that they must move this process along because they would not want to lose the grant,” said Bev Quinlan, co-chair of the Committee for Changeroom Choice.
Quinlan said the city waited and is now trying to ram the process through as quick as possible because of the grant.
“They waited for 47 days from which the report went to council to when the survey went online,” Quinlan said.
“(That is) a long lag and now we are being told this needs to get done, but the city’s timeline is a self-inflicted wound that didn’t have to happen.”
Quinlan said there has never been an opposition to a universal change room, but rather to the large open concept that is being proposed.
The pool and fitness centre currently has a men’s change room, a women’s change room and a universal change room that is used by families with children.
“We fully support the notion of a universal change room,” Quinlan said.
“It was the first sentence in our petition, we acknowledged a universal change room is most important. What we are trying to say is you can accommodate all users by having three.”