May 6, 2014 5:58 pm

Community fights to save green space on TDSB land

WATCH ABOVE: A portion of the green space next to the Bannockburn School is one of a number of sites in the city that are up for sale by the Toronto District School Board. Mark McAllister reports.

TORONTO – Community members are rallying together to save a two-acre green space in North York from being sold by the Toronto District School Board.

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The lot on Bannockburn school, near Avenue Rd. and the 401, is part of a plan by the TDSB to sell six closed school sites and sever land from six school playgrounds to raise money for repairs and renovations.

Trish McMahon, a mother of two and member of the Blackburn school parents association, says even though the land is owned by the TDSB it’s been a community park for generations.

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“There’s barely an afternoon that goes by where kids aren’t playing on the land. On the weekend the land is packed. They are playing baseball they are playing soccer,” she said. “The community really treat it as their local park. And with all the building on Avenue Road there just isn’t the amount of green space there once was.”

On May 14 the TDSB will ask the city for permission to change the zoning so they can sell the land for possible development.

Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto, says the issue is about balancing the needs of communities with tightening city budgets.

“In periods when our budgets are tight, when we can’t afford to do everything all at once, what we need to do is find ways of leveraging both our public assets in order to really improve and expand what we have,” said Siemiatycki. “Not just to sell-off public assets, but rather to create better community spaces. Places for people to live but also places for the community surroundings them to use.”

TDSB trustee Howard Goodman says if the city is going to build new schools the TDSB needs to sell $60 million in property annually.

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In the last six years they have sold over $360 million worth of property and are planning on selling an additional $200 million over the next three years.

“The province is requiring us to sell. They’re not picking this place or that place but they’re saying sell the land or you don’t get to build schools for your kids,” said Goodman.

Goodman says selling the lot on Bannockburn is one of the better options the TDSB has.

“This was one of those places where we thought, despite the fact that there’s community disruption and despite the fact there is loss of much need green space, that this was one of the better places to pick,” he said.

Residents are concerned the area that’s being severed could be re-sold to a private developer.

“There’s no reason why whoever buys the land… for them not to turn around and flip the land and have houses built,” said McMahon. “They could make a lot of money from having a private developer buy the land.”

*With files from Mark McAlllister

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