Scarborough resident Mark Weiser relishes playing with his kids in the wide open space near his home – but those days may be numbered.
The Toronto District School Board is selling off David and Mary Thomson Collegiate and a chunk of property belonging to the neighbouring Bendale Business and Technical Institute, replacing the two crumbling buildings with one state-of-the-art high school. Residents say when the process started in 2007, it sounded great – but things quickly changed.
“We went from the Toronto District School Board promising us an urban farm to now it looks like 550 homes,” said Weiser.
Now that a potential deal with another school board has fallen through the land is set to go on the market to the highest bidder, most likely a developer. Neighbours say they’ll be losing green space, which will be replaced with congestion.
“An urban jungle is not what we need. Kids need a place to have some outlet,” said long time resident William Lall.
They also say nobody will tell them what is going on, least of all their school trustee. Global News tried for over a week to contact David Smith. Late last Saturday he called from a blocked number and left a voicemail:
“I was out of town. I should be in tomorrow. I would be happy to speak with you on the matter of Bendale and Mary and David Thomson. Thank you very much and upon my return I will most certainly give you a call and see how we can arrange meeting up and having that little chat. Thank you and have a pleasant evening, good bye for now.”
Smith hasn’t called back since. Global News has emailed and called his office, but for most of the week his voicemail was full.
A stop by Smith’s campaign office proved fruitless.
The local City councillor is pushing for more community consultation.
“We’ve asked city council not to consider any request by the school board until such time that we have had planning staff meet with residents about what the school board is planning to do it in its entirety with the overall development, not piecemeal parts,” said Michael Tompson, Toronto City Councillor for Scarborough Centre.
“We will not accept that as a given the community should be kept in the dark.”
The school board insists there has been plenty of communication with residents, pointing out that once the property has been sold, it’s the city that will have to approve any development.
As for why they can’t leave some of the property behind for community green space, the school board says it needs the money.
“The fact is we have very few avenues to gain money to be able to build new schools and renovate new schools, so one of those avenues is to sell unused land,” Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB.
“In this case because we are taking two high schools and building one new larger one, we just don’t need an extra high school sized site.”
The community claims they are paying the price.
“We are going to lose public lands and someone is going to gain private profits. We feel something is going on that we’re not a part of and that is terrifying when it is happening in your own neighbourhood,” said Weiser.
The school board says the price of the property is private.