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The 75-year-old Moncton High School is expected to be replaced with a new school next year.

Moncton city councillors say they are surprised a Toronto developer has dropped its request to rezone land at the Royal Oaks subdivision, which includes the future site of the new Moncton High School.

Public hearings were supposed to be held at Monday's council meeting.

Coun. Pierre Boudreau suspects the developer must have had enough of the negative publicity surrounding the location for the new school

"We were surprised to say the least, but I understand the reasons why he would have withdrawn," he said.

A citizens' group, called Stop the Royal Hoax, has been lobbying to keep the school downtown. The Royal Oaks subdivision is located on the outskirts of the city.

The City of Moncton has also been trying for a year to get the province to find another location closer to downtown, said Coun. Pepsi Landry.

"We just told them we didn't think that was the ideal spot for it because of the extra cost and extra traffic on Elmwood Drive."

Negotiations ongoing

The province will continue with plans to build the new Moncton High in the Royal Oaks subdivision, Department of Education officials have said. The provincial government can ignore the municipal rezoning process.

However it remains unclear how the school will be connected to Moncton’s roads, water and sewer system.

The city and the province are negotiating who will pay those extra costs associated with building the school on the outskirts of the city.

Coun. Daniel Bourgeois estimates it could be as high as $30 million.

He said he still doesn't understand why the location was chosen, but the city will have to get the best deal possible from the province.

"We could have said ‘No, even on principle we disagree, we have this plan, we would like you to build the school somewhere else,’" he said.

"The province in the end still says ‘Nope our decision, our call. We build it there.’ And then we'd be stuck between a rock and a hard place again saying ‘OK, well we can't afford this, we won't extend the pipes, we won't widen the streets.’ And that would create problems."

Provincial officials have said 20 locations were considered, but the only acceptable one was Royal Oaks.

The Department of Education spent $1.475 million for the property where the school will be located.

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.