Monday, December, 02, 2013 - 3:03:51 PM
Broughton residents still hopeful they won’t lose park
By Gord Bowes, News staff
Southeast Mountain residents who want to see vacant school board land remain in use as a park continue to wait for a deal to be reached on its future.
Homeowners in the neighbourhood known as Broughton East thought their hopes of keeping the nearly 10 acres of green space out of developers’ hand were coming true when the city put in an offer on the land.
But the recent revelation that the French Catholic school board wants the site — and is fighting the Ontario government for the funding to buy it — means they will have to wait to see if it stays a neighbourhood park.
“The community continues to enjoy the wonderful green space and recreational amenities that it worked so hard to help build so many years ago and it would be a shame to see these taken away from our children and future generations,” said Dianne Brunetti.
The citizens committee Brunetti chairs earlier this year presented east Mountain councillor Tom Jackson with a 400-name petition asking the city to purchase the property so it can continue using it as a park like it has for about two decades. Jackson got council on board to unanimously endorse an offer to buy it.
The 9.47-acre lot is along Broughton Avenue at Grayrocks, just east of Upper Gage. The land is zoned agricultural and the city has a dollar-a-year deal with the school board to use a portion as a community park. The property was declared surplus by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board last summer.
Last month, the French Catholic school board for the south-central Ontario region announced it had bid on the property, but didn’t receive funding from the Ministry of Education to finalize the deal. It wants to build a new high school there to replace Académie catholique Mère-Teresa (ACMT), which is currently located in an old elementary school on Lisgar Court.
The French Catholic board is suing the province over the lack of funding.
The public school board won’t comment on the sale as discussions remain behind closed doors until a deal is reached.
“Negotiations are ongoing with a potential buyer,” said spokesperson Jackie Penman. “It is still in camera.”
A spokesperson for the French Catholic board said it still has an active bid for the Broughton land. The lawsuit the board filed against the provincial government does not include a hold on the sale of the Broughton property until the matter is resolved, said Eve-Amélie Towner-Sarault.
The board is looking at other property to buy for a replacement for Mere Teresa, but is not making any public comment about its plans, said Towner-Sarault.
Jackson said he too is in standby mode waiting to see what happens with the Broughton land. He said the city has reconfirmed its interest to purchase, but has to wait until the public school board comes back to it about its offer.
When a school board puts a property up for sale, it must be offered to other taxpayer-funded agencies before going on the open market. The French public and English Catholic school boards are first and second on the list, the French Catholic board is third and the city is ninth.
“This is the first time I’ve encountered where the city is in competition with another public entity for surplus school board land,” said Jackson. “I’m hopeful the city can somehow still acquire it,” he said.
Jackson said he would be happy to help the French Catholic board find another site. He added if the board does purchase the Broughton land, he hope it will sell any portion it does not need to the city.