Hamilton's public school board is going ahead with a plan to spend upwards of $4 million to expropriate the shuttered Scott Park high school property and turn it into a 165-spot parking lot.
Meeting at City Hall on Monday, trustees with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted 7-4 in favour of the motion, a key piece of the board’s plan to build a new high school at the current site of Parkview Secondary and King George schools.
“I’m very pleased that we’ve come this far,” said board vice-chair Jessica Brennan, who voted in favour of the plan.
“Expropriating the land allows us to do the right configuration in the area so that we can get a building, get some green space and have places for people who need to park their cars. All of that will happen now moving forward.”
Board not bound to parking plan: director
The board voted in late October to build a new school on the site, located in the so-called Pan Am precinct across from the city’s new 24,000-seat stadium. But the Parkview/King George site isn’t large enough to accommodate a parking lot, so the board had to consider other options.
Monday’s vote will see the board spend about $4 million to demolish the former Scott Park high school and pave a parking lot on the site. The board had sold the property nine years ago for $650,000.
'I just think there’s got to be a better solution than expropriation for parking.' —Karen Turkstra, trustee, Wards 14 and 15
Karen Turkstra, trustee for Flamborough, voted against the motion and said she’s “disappointed” with the result. She described the plan as “fiscally irresponsible.”
Turkstra acknowledged the board is responsible to find parking for the school, set to open in 2016, but noted there is enough time for trustees to work with the city to find a more economical alternative.
“I just think there’s got to be a better solution than expropriation for parking.”
The decision to expropriate Scott Park doesn't bind the board to use the site exclusively as a parking lot, said John Malloy, the HWDSB’s director of education.
“It doesn’t stop the board from being able to engage in creative discussions with the city, for instance, that might allow us configure the Scott Park land differently than simply building 165 spots over the exact footprint” of the property.
Months of deliberations
The vote follows months of deliberations over the site of the new lower-city high school.
The board voted in May 2012 to close three central and east Hamilton high schools — Sir John A. Macdonald, Delta and Parkview — and build a single, 1,250-student school to replace them.
Then, in January 2013, the province announced it would fund the new development to the tune of $31.8 million, on the condition the school is open by 2016.
The board had initially approached the city to partner on a joint education and recreation complex on the Scott Park site. But in September, the city said it would build the community centre on its own, citing concerns about possible cost overruns and power struggles within the collaboration.
The King George and Parkview site is large enough for a 1,250-student school, some green space and a full-size soccer field. Parking will be nearly 200 metres down the street at Scott Park. For sports, the school’s home games will be at Sir Winston Churchill School, about three kilometres away.
Carly Van Egdom, who sits on the board as a student trustee, says the King George/Parkview configuration was the “best option” before the board.
“To me, it was really important that the green space and the school be on the same site.”
At the same meeting, the board decided on a new name for a yet-to-be-renovated school in Dundas. Trustees voted to close Parkside Secondary and move students from that school into an upgraded Highland Secondary.
The board's choice for the new tag: Dundas Valley Secondary School.