A site plan presented by the Simcoe County District School Board for a new secondary school in Barrie's southend was rejected by City Council on Monday night, setting the stage for a lengthy and expensive Ontario Municipal Board hearing.
The property is located on land annexed from the Town of Innisfil, on the southwest edge of Barrie. While the city has suggested a partnership to include a shared library and move the school building to the north the Board won't budge on its plan to locate the school away from the main intersection.
Board officials have refused to alter the site plan and build the school adjacent to the Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way intersection, stating that the city's proposal "did not satisfactorily address their safety concerns". There are also significant costs involved in redesigning the location.
"This is not about safety," said Ward 8 Councillor Arif Khan. "What we are doing is putting the school closer to a controlled intersection. We are wiser to follow our staff's expertise and recommendation and to recognize that the data does not support the argument that safety is an issue."
Traffic data from the roads department presented to Council Monday indicates there have been 18 pedestrian incidents on roadways within 500 metres of 11 Barrie high schools over the past 12 years. Mayor Jeff Lehman quoted the statistics, concluding "as far as we can tell, there is no safety concern that would be supported by this information."
He added that partnering to build a library and share costs would offset some of the expense the Board will incur when redesigning the site.
Ward 4 Councillor Barry Ward said he was hurt by the process and supports city staff recommendations to build the school closer to the main roads.
"We have plans in place and the very first group we allow to go in there, the school board, ... has thumbed their noses at this Council," Ward said. "I will be supporting the staff recommendation, even though that means this will go to the OMB, unfortunately further delaying things for the students."
A series of meetings in October failed to produce a resolution to the location of the proposed high school that both the City and School Board could accept.
"I can hardly believe this is happening," Ward 1 Councillor Bonnie Ainsworth said prior to the unanimous vote. "I am appalled by it as a tax payer, never mind being a councillor.
"This is all public money building public buildings and now you are going to sue the taxpayers? I have lost a lot of respect here for public boards that would treat taxpayers like this."
Her comments received brief applause from the audience.