Parents hold protest over planned highrise development beside John Fisher school
Published Thursday, March 9, 2017 7:47AM EST Last Updated Thursday, March 9, 2017 2:13PM EST
A group of concerned parents held a rally this morning to protest a planned 35-storey highrise apartment building that will be constructed next to the playground of one of Toronto’s oldest elementary schools.
Parents of students at John Fisher Public School say they are concerned that the proposed development, which has been given the green light by the Ontario Municipal Board, will put student health and safety at risk.Taylor Roberts, a father of one of the students at the public school, located near Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue, told CP24 Thursday that the Toronto District School Board has made it "clear" that the land cannot accommodate "the activities that will happen with the condo."
"This is going to be a 35-storey building directly next to their kindergarten’s playground. When they come to clean the windows twice a year, do we have to close our school?... Things can fall off of a balcony right on to a child in the playground," he said.
Roberts said he is concerned that the school's 500 students may have to relocate during construction.
"The public should not pay in order for a private developer to get rich and then disappear and then leave us with our public land hugely devalued," he said.
In a statement released earlier this week, the TDSB said a third party company has been hired to conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the health and safety of students and staff and determine what impact the construction will have on the learning environment.
“The TDSB will assess measures to mitigate the risks associated with the development,” the school board said, adding that they may consider temporarily relocating students to Vaughan Road Academy, located about six kilometres away.
“A decision to relocate the school has not yet been determined. If the relocation is to proceed, the TDSB will work with staff and the school community to facilitate the process and ensure a successful transition."
Developer says school relocation not ‘necessary’
Nathan Katz, a spokesperson for KG Group, the project’s developer, released a statement Wednesday night, assuring concerned parents that the proposal includes “comprehensive health and safety precautions” to protect the students at John Fisher Public School and the adjoining daycare facility.
“At no time have we considered it necessary for there to be any student relocation during the construction process. We are fully committed to work with the Toronto District School Board, parents, the City of Toronto and provincial representatives to minimize any undue disruptions to the community,” the statement read.
Mayor John Tory told parents at this morning’s protest that he "admired" their advocacy.
"You have people’s attention," he said.
"I’m certainly here to make sure the parents know I’m going to work very hard to try… to find something that makes this better."
In a statement released last weekend, Tory previously addressed concerns about the development project and its proximity to the school.
"I will do whatever I can to ensure that the best interests and well-being of this neighbourhood, including John Fisher students, are protected,” Tory said.
The mayor added that he is working with local Coun. Jaye Robinson Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is the community’s MPP, to find solutions.
“This development was opposed by the City and Councillor Robinson. In effect, it has been forced on the City by the Ontario Municipal Board. But the OMB decision is no reason to abandon the well-being of a stable neighbourhood or one of Toronto's most respected public schools,” Tory’s statement read.
“I promise residents that this development will be held to the very highest standards when it comes to the health and safety of the children and the well-being of the neighbourhood and local families."
Parents are ‘outraged,’ local councillor says
Coun. Robinson, who also attended the protest Thursday, called the project the "poster child" for over-development in Toronto and specifically in the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood.
"We simply don’t have the infrastructure to support the level of development happening here... The parents are outraged. That’s the only word for it, it’s outrage. I get emails by the hour and we are having non-stop meetings," she said.
"The good news here is that the parents and the school council is very engaged. I mean they are like a dog with a bone. They are fighting this to the end but the issue is that it has OMB approval and so my concern is why is the OMB, a provincial body, deciding and defining our neighbourhoods in Toronto?"
But James McKenzie, associate chair of the Ontario Municipal Board, said when the board approved the proposal, there was no council decision on the matter.
"There was an appeal and that appeal was launched... The appeal came before the board, the parties were ramping up for a hearing, they reached out to the board about mediation and the board responded by inviting them into a mediation process," McKenzie said.
The four parties involved in the mediation, McKenzie said, were the City of Toronto, two residents' groups and the applicant.
"Those four parties with the board’s assistance were able to come to a resolution, consensual resolution," he said.
"What came before the board was an outcome that the four parties all agreed to and in fact what the board did in this case was approve exactly what city council asked it to approve."