Many Bendale residents still unhappy with plans for Thomson Collegiate lands

As published in The Scarborough Mirror, May 13 2015

Months of negotiations may save three acres of the David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute property from development, but many Bendale residents said that isn’t enough.

City of Toronto planners and Michael Thompson, the local councillor, say they reached a deal with the Toronto District School Board, which plans to sell off DMTCI and Bendale Business and Technical Institute next door, building a new secondary school on part of the land.

Neighbours of the schools, stung last fall to learn DMTCI wouldn’t be preserved as a French-language school, as they had heard, had campaigned to save their “school parks” at Midland and Lawrence avenues.

Having reached a settlement with the TDSB, which has sent its plans for townhouses on the DMTCI lands to the Ontario Municipal Board, Thompson this week couldn’t convince many residents the deal is worthwhile.

Again and again during a community meeting Monday at Bendale BTI, the councillor said the deal won’t be part an OMB hearing on plans for 111 townhouses at DMTCI.

“What we have there (the settlement) clearly is better than nothing,” Thompson argued, adding members of the planning tribunal “don’t care whether you have greenspaces or bricks.”

But despite his warnings to residents they would likely get “nothing at all” from the municipal board or school board if they don’t support the deal, many did not.

Asking for a show of hands from a crowd of about 200, Thompson said he saw more people in favour of the compromise than against, but it was close, and a large number didn’t raise their hands at all.

“This is our land,” declared Gillian Mason, who argued the TDSB should be stopped before it sells off public properties for short-term gain.

“We as a community should not capitulate. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Later, Mason said she was unconvinced the city should do anything but fight the townhouse plan at the OMB, on principle.

“This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” she said.

Thompson said he got from the board the best deal he could: one acre of DMTCI saved for a 62-space childcare facility, the area’s most significant need; a second acre for parkland, a third acre expanding the proposed new school site, and 0.6 acres more for future parkland and possible community centre, when a need for one is identified.

The city would pay for the day care, and money for the rest of the 3.6 acres can be found in a land acquisition fund and payments, made decades ago, for allowing developers to build apartment towers in the area, he said.

John Tambling, a homeowner near Bendale BTI for 43 years, asked Thompson to do a little more.

Donwood Park Junior Public School and Edgewood Public School, both close by, are full and can’t absorb children from the DMTCI townhouses and hundreds more said to be planned for the Bendale site, said Tambling, who wanted to ask school board officials about this.

“Get the TDSB guys up here and we can fire our questions at them,” he said.

There were school board officials in the room, including an area superintendent, John Chasty, but none spoke to residents about their arguments.

Scarborough Centre MPP Brad Duguid, also in the audience, said he came to support Thompson, who he recognized is in a “tough” position.

“He’s stepped up for you in this community,” said Duguid, a former Scarborough councillor, who also suggested residents take the deal.

“Much as it would be great to have it all, (it’s) not gonna happen.”

Some also appealed to Duguid to save the schools, arguing how the TDSB uses its land or sells its land is a provincial issue, and Duguid’s government could force the TDSB to change its plans. Duguid disagreed.

Mark Weiser, the Midland Park Community Association president who helped start the resident campaign by forming the Greater Bendale Community Association last year, didn’t speak either.

Weiser held a meeting last week at the Scarborough Civic Centre to gauge opinions on the compromise, and before Monday’s meeting said he thought the deal represented progress for the community but expected most people wouldn’t support it.

Planning staff will report on Monday’s meeting and the DMTCI site plan application at Toronto council’s Executive Committee on May 26. A date for the OMB hearing has not been set.


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