Midland Park residents frustrated with misunderstanding over Thomson-Bendale school lands

Residents group, councillor thought TDSB had sold land to French school board

Scarborough Mirror
By Ali Raza

Midland Park residents are angered over a misunderstanding with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

A meeting was held in March with representatives of Toronto Land Corporation (TLC) – a subsidiary of the TDSB tasked with the redevelopment and sale of school board lands – Ward 37 Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson and community residents. It outlined the details of the sale of lands of Bendale Business and Technical Institute and David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute.

According to residents, TDSB informed them that David and Mary Thomson C.I. was sold to the Toronto French School Board, Bendale BTI was sold to developers, and a new school on the remaining land would be erected combining the two old schools.

But the Midland Park Community Association and Thompson’s office said they later discovered that the land sold to the Toronto French School Board had not been sold and TDSB planned to sell it to developers.

“TDSB decided not to sell Thomson to the French school board and that they’re trying to sell it to a developer with a plan to build 400 townhomes,” said Mark Weiser, president, Midland Park Community Association. “None of us (community residents) had been contacted.”

The confusion follows a decade of planning around the two schools with the initiation of ARC or an “area recommendation committee” by the school board.

Bendale BTI was originally slated for repairs and renovation by the school board. But when the emerging costs were too high, TDSB decided that it would be cheaper to build a new school, combining students from Bendale BTI and Thomson. The remaining portion of land was to be sold.

And in the planning process, the TDSB included community consultations. After discussion with residents, TLC intended to sell Bendale BTI’s land to private developers.

“The school board said there were to be 140 townhomes on the Bendale site,” said Thompson. “The community and myself said we’d like a transition-type development where we suggested they put in single homes in the area connected to the existing community and transition that into townhouses.”

Midland Park is a neighbourhood with detached and semi-detached homes, so community residents wanted developers to “compliment the area,” Weiser said.

After the consultation, TLC, TDSB and the developer, Bousfields Inc., proposed that 111 townhomes would be built on the Bendale site. Community residents and the councillor’s office were told, they said, that the Thomson site was already sold to the French school board.

But in April, the French school board withdrew its bid due to lack of provincial approval, said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird.

“We did not say that it had already been sold,” he said. “We wouldn’t have communicated that until it was all finalized and it was never finalized.”

“If we said anything it would’ve been that there was interest or an offer from the French school board,” he added.

TDSB properties on sale follow Regulation 444, which says that for the first 90 days of sale, the land must be offered to public agencies – like school boards and the city or province. After 90 days if no bid receives financial approval, then the lands are put on the open market.

In response to the dispute, Thompson moved a motion at the recent Scarborough Community Council meeting to defer the lands deal until 2015 for further consideration. The move has halted action on the Thomson site.

“The fact is we’ve got two aging schools, we’re trying to build a new 21st century school for students of both those schools,” Bird said. “I just think it’s going to be very positive for the community.”

But residents continue to have a number of concerns with the Thomson development proposal. They suggest space for “public amenities” citing the closest community centre, Birkdale, is 50-60 years old.

“It’s not that we don’t want townhomes,” Weiser said. “It’s that we don’t want people coming into the neighbourhood, profiting off the neighbourhood and then leaving us with nothing.”


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