The green space at Bannockburn School may become a distant memory.
The plot of land at the centre of a tug-of-war between the school board and the community for more than two years may soon be up for sale, after the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of allowing the school board to sever and sell the land.
The Toronto District School Board first proposed the severance of the property — separating the green space from the land with the school on it — to raise funds for other projects. It met with fierce opposition from the community, leading to the formation of the Save Bannockburn’s Greenspace Group, which then led the charge against the proposal and raised funds to fight it at the OMB.
The city’s committee of adjustment rejected the proposal in May last year, saying the school board failed to follow its own policies by announcing the plan without consulting with the community first, and citing community need for greenspace.
Patricia McMahon, who heads SBGS, said she felt frustrated by the ruling, as does the community.
“People are really disappointed and really disheartened that the OMB didn’t make much of the fact that the TDSB didn’t follow their own requirements to consult with the community,” she said. “I would’ve thought an administrative tribunal would’ve been a little more keenly attuned to that sort of thing.”
Trustee for the area Jennifer Arp, who was elected last fall after campaigning on saving the greenspace, said she wasn’t surprised by the ruling because she thought the board had a strong case. Despite the result, she says it’s still her hope they can come up with “the right solution to save the greenspace.”
“It’s baffled my mind from day one that Bannockburn was [chosen for sale]” she said. “I didn’t support it then, I don’t support it now, and I have a lot of colleagues who feel the same way.”
At the next school board meeting Oct. 28, Arp says she plans to bring back a topic that was deferred in March, seeking to have the severance and sale of the land reconsidered.
She says Bannockburn is the only surplus school site left in the Yonge corridor to deal with overflow from nearby areas. So with any new development at Yonge-Eglinton, the kids will be sent up to her area.
“[Other schools] can’t accommodate them — we need that site,” she said. “So why on Earth would we ever consider selling the greenspace on that site when there’s a very good chance we’ll need it because of enrolment pressures in the future?”
McMahon says the community’s role in the fight isn’t over, and she’s encouraging the people to write to Arp as well as all other trustees to let them know they want the greenspace to stay.
“The OMB has issued its decision so now is the time for action,” she said.
The OMB ruled that while the community had viewed and used the area as a park, it was still private land and the TDSB has the right to do with it as it pleases.
The city could still save the green space by purchasing it. However, it has previously said it does not have the money to do so.
According to testimony at the OMB, the city does in fact have the money to do so but is “reluctant” because of having to pay fair market value — a price that is inflated because of the prospect of residential development on the land.
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