By: Mike Anderson

The Town’s bylaw department wants Prakash Bala, the owner of a rural property in Egypt, to cease playing cricket on a practice pitch he built on his property at 6675 Smith Blvd. or face charges and substantial fines for violating the Town’s zoning bylaw.

According to the Town, Bala is operating a recreational sports field that is not permitted on rural properties.

But Bala argues that his rudimentary cricket pitch, which he built in 2019, is for practice only and not intended for tournaments, which are played at a dedicated cricket pitch at the Bethesda Sports Field in Stouffville.

He also says his cricket pitch, which he named the Georgina Puram Cricket Club (GPCC), is not a money-making proposition.

Bala says he receives no fees or donations for allowing his friends and fellow cricketers a chance to hone their skills. He maintains the pitch and cuts the grass by himself to save costs.

He also points out that not one of his neighbours has complained about the weekend pick-up games, involving around 20 cricketers, split ten aside, played before the lockdown.

In fact, more than 50 neighbours and local businesses, including the pastor of the local church, have signed a petition urging the Town to allow the cricket pitch.

However, Bala was recently fined $880 under the Reopening Ontario Act for playing cricket on his property, which prohibits playing or practicing team sports during the province-wide lockdown.

Although he says the players were social distancing and following the same COVID-19 protocols allowed for golf, Bala says he will honour the rules from now on.

While the Town has offered Bala a solution, it appears to be a long, costly process without a guaranteed outcome.

The Town wants him to work with its planning department to obtain an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) and a Zoning Bylaw Amendment (ZBA) to allow a recreational sports field on his property.

But OPAs and ZBAs are a public process, and council would have to give its approval.

Initially, Bala was prepared to hire a consultant and seek the amendments. But now he is crying foul after finding out the process may cost him more than $60,000, including $36,000 in upgrades to the pitch and the construction of a new washroom, as well as $19,900 for the zoning amendments.

Faced with these costs, Bala would like the Town to grant him an exception from the bylaw.

He says he wants to promote cricket in Georgina and get more residents involved, which might eventually lead to a municipal cricket pitch like Stouffville’s.

But if his cricket pitch is shut down, he says that goal may never be attained.

Bala, a Tamil who emigrated from Sri Lanka in the 90s during the bitter civil war which claimed his brother’s life, is grateful to live in Canada and play the sport he loves.

On Canada Day, depending on whether the province has reached stage two, which allows outdoor sports and leagues, he hopes to have a bbq with his friends and play a cricket match to pay homage to the country that granted him citizenship.

And if the Town wants to fine him, he’s prepared to accept that.



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