Nova Scotia

Supreme Court of Canada rejects St. Pat's-Alexandra appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a bid by Halifax community groups to appeal a lower court ruling that awarded St. Patrick’s-Alexandra Elementary School to Jono Developments.

Community association wanted to turn old building into a site for affordable housing and a community hub

The North Central Community Council Association wanted to transform the property into a multi-purpose site that would include affordable housing and a community hub. (CBC)

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a bid by Halifax community groups to appeal a lower court ruling that awarded St. Patrick's-Alexandra Elementary School to Jono Developments.

"This is devastating news," said Dr. Margaret Casey, a spokesperson for the North End Health Clinic. "We saw this as an extraordinary opportunity, so I am very, very upset to hear about this decision."

The Halifax Regional School Board declared the school surplus in 2008 and closed it in 2011. The Halifax Regional Municipality took possession of it and sold it to Jono Developments for $3 million.

Several community groups, working as the North Central Community Council Association, learned about a city policy passed in 2000 outlining how to dispose of schools. The policy had never been used.

"Really the vision was so exciting and we felt doable." Casey said. 

Several community groups challenged the move in court and a judge struck down the deal in September 2012. Jono Developments appealed that ruling. The Court of Appeals ruled with Jono Developments.

It said Halifax had satisfied its duty of fairness. The judges found ample evidence to support HRM's price for the site, which it said was not under market value.

Thursday's decision should put an end the legal battle and paves the way for the developer to continue with plans for a private development.

Lawyers for the city now plan to review the legal situation and prepare a new report for council.

Halifax Coun. Jennifer Watts wanted a public discussion of the decision to evict Occupy Nova Scotia protesters. ((CBC))

In December Regional Council also asked staff to try to mediate between Jono Developments and the community groups and report back on any progress in the spring.

Councillor Jennifer Watts, who represents District 8, Peninsula North, hopes some discussions will now be possible.

"Hopefully there will be some openness to looking at what the community's been talking about as their vision."  Watts said, "It's difficult for parties to sit down when things are happening in court. But that's clearly not happening now, so is that a possibility?"

Watts said the status of a lawsuit launched against the city by Jono Developments also needs to be cleared up. She thinks an update should be ready for council in early May.  

The community association wanted to turn the old building into a site for affordable housing and a community hub. In the short term, it would act as an incubator for non-profits and arts groups.

The group is made up of the MicMac Native Friendship Centre, the North End Community Health Association and the Richard Preston Centre for Excellence.

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