The provincial government is coming under fire for spending $1.4 million for land at Royal Oaks, where it plans to build a new Moncton High school.

Moncton Coun. Nancy Hoar said she is shocked at the price the province paid.

"Well, I think that's an astronomical price to pay for 40 acres of land," she said.

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The 75-year-old Moncton High School is expected to be replaced with a new school next year. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

But Bill Whalen, a spokesperson for the developer, said the money will cover more than just the land.

About $1 million from the sale will be spent building two roads and to provide water and sewer lines to the high school, he said.

Still, Scott Agnew, spokesman of a group called Royal Hoax, which is opposed to the school being built near the outskirts of the city, contends there were better deals available.

'We've found properties very near to the area that are of similar size or greater that are actually quite a bit less.'—Scott Agnew, opponent

"In some quick searches of things such as MLS or Kijiji, we've found properties very near to the area that are of similar size or greater that are actually quite a bit less than the 1.5 million," he said.

One piece of land is closer to downtown, twice as big and half the price, while the other is next to Royal Oaks at a third of the price, Agnew said.

The city also suggested eight sites closer to downtown, but they were all rejected, according to Hoar.

20 sites considered

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams said the province looked at 20 sites, but the only acceptable one was at Royal Oaks, in the city’s north end.

He declined to discuss why the other sites were rejected.

"To talk specifically on a specific site on specific conditions, I'm not at liberty to discuss those issues," Williams said.

The protest group argues the province should have called for tenders, or put out a request for proposals in order to allow other property owners to have their land considered for the future high school.

The Department of Education announced last July that a new high school would be located in the Royal Oaks subdivision off of Elmwood Drive.

That decision has frustrated some citizens who are lobbying to keep the school downtown.

Moncton High School was closed in 2010 over health and safety concerns. The provincial government invested $2 million into the 75-year-old facility so students could go back to the school.

The provincial government intends to have the new school ready for students in 2013.