Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee
28 november 2007
Comité des services organisationnels et du développement économique
le 28 novembre 2007
Extract of draft Minutes 18
19 & 20 november 2007
Extrait de l’ébauche du procès-verbal 18 – le 19 & 20 novembre 2007
SCHOOL PROPERTIES -
3071 RIVERSIDE DRIVE AND 2720 RICHMOND ROAD -
OWNED BY THE OTTAWA-CARLETON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
EXCÉDENT DE PROPRIÉTÉS SCOLAIRES -
3071, PROMENADE RIVERSIDE ET 2720, CHEMIN RICHMOND - APPARTENANT À LA OTTAWA-CARLETON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
ACS2007-BTS-RPM-0042 Bay (4), River (16)
Appearing before Committee on this item were Mr. S. Finnamore, Executive Director of Business Transformation Services and Mr. G. MacNair, Manager of Real Estate Services. Mr. Finnamore provided Committee with a brief overview of the staff report, noting some of Committee’s discussions on this topic would need to take place In Camera. Mr. MacNair then described the two subject properties for Committee’s benefit.
Committee heard from the following public delegations.
Ronald Caza, Centre multi-services franc ouest (CMFO), referenced the City’s policy on purchasing surplus schools, noting its objective was to prevent having such sites fall into private hands. He indicated the issue before Committee today was whether or not to recommend the purchase of the Grant school. He submitted that the Grant school would be a good investment for the City. He discussed: its construction date and therefore its historical value; its natural environment and the trees and greenspace to be preserved; and the fact that the francophone community was in need of such a site. For these reasons, he urged Committee and Council to seize the opportunity to purchase the Grant school and to proceed, in so doing, to ensuring that Francophones in Ottawa’s western regions had a place where they could live in French and preserve their language and their culture. He referenced the growing numbers of Francophones and Francophiles in Ottawa’s west end, as demonstrated by the growing number of French and French-immersion schools in the area, and submitted that they currently did not have a place where they could live in French and participate in activities in French. Without getting into details of the CMFO project, he advised that a number of organizations were already on side and that $450,000 had been collected to make the project a reality. He re-iterated his request for Committee and Council to seize the opportunity to purchase the Grant school, submitting it would be an investment because the CMFO project would not cost the City any money. It would be self-sustaining and it would be successful.
Jocelyne Chenier, Centre communautaire franc oust (CCFO), spoke on behalf of her organization as well as all the other partner organizations of the CMFO. She indicated her organization served approximately 2000 families and she strongly encouraged Committee and Council to proceed with the purchase of the Grant school site. She indicated it was not easy for community organizations in Ottawa’s west end to reach and serve Francophones and Francophiles, which were spread out throughout the area. Therefore, she submitted it was essential that all such organizations be gathered under one roof. She believed that by working together under one roof, these organizations would be able to create a synergy, which would allow them to become more efficient in providing their services. She then discussed the difficulties currently experienced in finding suitable and affordable space in the area, noting that in the past five years, the CCFO had moved three times and would be moving again in the coming weeks. She discussed similar problems being experienced by other francophone services organizations in the west-end and submitted that the City’s purchase of the Grant school would provide an opportunity to solve all these problems. She felt it was essential for Ottawa’s west-end francophones and she urged Committee and Council to proceed with the purchase.
Gérard Savoie, Hôpital Montfort, advised that, as a full partner of the CMFO, the Hôpital Montfort was supporting the City’s purchase of the Grant school site. He noted that, despite being located in the East end of the City, Montfort served all of Ottawa’s francophones. He discussed the importance of establishing various forms of health care service delivery throughout the community and the current state of the health care system and he submitted that it was essential to set-up a family medical service team to serve the 21,000 Francophones in Ottawa’s west end. He felt the CMFO would be part of the solution in resolving health care problems and he indicated that Montfort would work with the CMFO to establish its family medical service team. He then discussed the partnership between Montfort and the University of Ottawa in terms of training health care professionals and advised that the family medical service team located with the CMFO would be a teaching facility. In closing, he suggested this school site purchase presented an opportunity for the City to have a part in the solution.
Serge Brousseau, La Cité Collégiale, reminded Committee that La Cité Collégiale was created in 1990 in order to give Francophones better access to quality post-secondary education. He noted that most of the schools’s students came from central and eastern Ottawa. However, he believed that if La Cité Collégiale had facilities in the west end, they would attract more Francophone students from the area. He advised that, although La Cité Collégiale had no intention of setting up a campus in the West end, it would be interested in providing, in collaboration with the CMFO, a point of service for the growing Francophone population in the area. He then discussed various ideas in terms of programs and services La Cité Collégiale could provide at the CMFO facility. For these reasons, he expressed the school’s interest in entering into a partnership with the CMFO and he urged Committee and Council to proceed with the purchase of the Grant school site.
Responding to questions from Councillor Cullen, Mr. Caza confirmed that 55 Francophone organizations were partnering with the CMFO. He submitted a book of letters of support from various organizations, representing 108,000 individuals. A copy of this submission is held on file with the City Clerk.
Henry Swiech, President of the Queensway Terrace North Community Association, expressed his organization’s support for the City’s policy to purchase surplus schools as they became available because of the increasing pressure on communities within the boundaries of the old City of Ottawa in terms of increasing rarity of properties for public use. He listed a number of community organizations in the area of the Grant school property as well as several potential uses for the facility. Based on this information, he submitted the City would have no problem utilizing the property and that staff could put together several viable business plans for Council’s consideration. A copy of Mr. Swiech’s written submission is held on file with the City Clerk.
Mr. M. Salhani, Parish Councilor at St. Elias Cathedral, noted the Bayview Public School site was located one block south of the Cathedral, which had a member of 1,500 families scattered throughout Ottawa. On behalf of the congregation, he expressed support for the proposed acquisition of the site, noting it was reasonable to expect that City Council should protect and preserve the public investment as much as it was financially practical to do so. He submitted that allowing the property to be offered on the open market would defeat any hopes of preserving even part of the site for institutional or recreational uses. Because he also recognized the City’s financial challenges, he expressed support for selling off part of the site to private interests in order to recuperate costs. Furthermore, he advised that St. Elias Cathedral was interested in the school building for conversion to a retirement home for the aged and perhaps a licensed daycare for pre-school children, which would be operated and owned by St. Elias Cathedral but would serve the general public.
Responding to questions from Mayor O’Brien, Mr. Salhani confirmed that St. Elias Cathedral had money set aside and was prepared to invest into the facility. However, he noted it would be subject to some due diligence with respect to building inspections and so on.
Councillor McRae advised that she had met with the Parish Council of St. Elias and she confirmed that Mr. Salhani’s presentation reflected the City’s policy, which was to save the site for a particular interest. She indicated the Parish would like to see the City follow through on its policy. She further noted that the Parish had been told they would have to develop a business case for their proposal.
Mr. B. Smith, President of the Riverside Park Community and Recreational Association (RPCRA), expressed his organization’s support for the purchase of the Bayview school property, noting the site was an integral part of their community. He discussed the property’s greenspace, which was used for sports and play activities and enjoyed as general open space. In particular, he indicated that for 25 years, the Association had maintained and operated an open-air skating rink on the site. He felt it was important for the City to maintain such open and green space and he submitted that the retention of this open space would be a natural extension of the Mooney’s Bay Park. He assumed that, should the property be sold to any entity other than the City, the open areas and sports fields would be lost to the community. Therefore, he submitted this was a one-time opportunity for the City to acquire the site and ensure that its use remained consistent with the character and nature of the neighbourhood.
Councillor McRae noted Committee was in receipt of a letter from the RPCRA. Furthermore, she advised that the organization had held their annual general meeting the previous week and had engaged in an open discussion on this issue. Therefore, Mr. Smith was not only representing his organization, but also his community.
Mr. R. Brockington, resident of the Mooney’s Bay community and School Board Trustee for Zone 11 - River Ward, indicated the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) had accepted its staff’s recommendation to pursue negotiations with the City of Ottawa with respect to the sale of both the former Bayview Public School site and the former Grant Public School site. He advised that, after trustees closed Bayview School on August 31st, 2007, deemed the site surplus to the School Board’s needs and commenced a disposal process, all local public entities were approached under Ontario Regulation 444-98. He indicated his opinion was that the spirit of such regulation was to keep public sites in public hands. He noted the City was the only entity to express interest. He firmly believed there was significant demand within Riverside Park to make the acquisition feasible for the City and that this was truly a win-win proposition. The School Board would get approximately fair market value for the site, the City would retain it for public use, and the local community would continue to use much-needed greenspace, recreational sites and a community facility. He reported that for years, as speculation increased that the School Board would once and for all tackle the declining enrollment issue in the community and close the school, multiple local community groups had approached him asking how they could lease, rent or acquire the building. He submitted that demand existed for community centre space, community service centre space, seniors’ recreational space, seniors’ long-term care facility space, daycare space and other specific needs. He indicated the purpose of his presentation was to ensure Committee and Council were cognizant of the overwhelming support that existed in the area for the site to remain in public hands, for much-needed greenspace to be retained for ice skating, soccer, baseball, etc. He said he was aware of Council’s fiscal challenges. He submitted that, as Chair of the School Board’s Budget Committee, he was no stranger to difficult budgets. However, he urged Committee and Council to consider the long-term effect of their decision and to not reject the proposal simply because of the price. He asked that members consider the long-term benefits that would be retained for the community for years to come. He reported it was very likely that if no deal was reached, trustees may consider selling the site on the open market. If this happened, he believed greenspace and a community building that had existed for decades and had served thousands of local residents, would be lost forever. He noted the annual operating cost were low for maintaining ice rinks, soccer pitched and ball diamonds and that this was a good deal for the City of Ottawa, the residents of Riverside Park and the greater community. He urged Committee and Council to accept the staff recommendation to acquire both the Bayview Public School and Grant Public School sites. He opined that it may be odd for the seller of the building to appear before Committee to urge the City to accept staff’s proposal. However, he maintained it was about retaining a public good in public hands. He remarked that many trustees believed the School Board could get more money on the open market for the Bayview site. He re-iterated this was a once-in-a-life time opportunity to retain a public good for public use and he urged the City to work with the School Board for a win-win solution.
Councillor Deans referenced a situation in her ward a few years back when the City had expressed an interest in acquiring land at Cahill Drive and Hunt Club Road for the South-Central District Library. She recalled that the Ottawa Board of Education (OBE) would not entertain the City’s offer, which would have retained those lands in the long-term public interest. As a result, the City found an alternate site for the Library and a few months later, the OBE sold the preferred site into public ownership for housing development. She agreed with retaining public sites for public uses. However, she maintained that all sides had to cooperate in order to make things happen. She referenced the delegation’s comments with respect to the School Board getting “approximately fair market value” and she wondered, if the City was to retain the site as greenspace, if he would be prepared to advance a motion to give the City a break on the purchase price, in the interest of working together to retain the site as greenspace for the future of Ottawa’s residents. Mr. Brockington responded that, as one trustee, he was certainly prepared to be engaged in the thorough discussion, when the discussion was held at the School Board table. He indicated he shared many of the concerns of local residents and members of Council about the value of retaining the site within the community. However, he indicated School Board trustees would not sell vacant or surplus land to the City for a dollar, or some very nominal fee. This was shy he suggested that if there could not be an agreement, that the City not reject it outright because it was about a negotiation. The parties were trying to compromise with each other and go back and forth until they could come to some sort of agreement. He indicated he was prepared to entertain any logical or rational offer being made and to articulate the concerns of his constituents and of the district. He cautioned that he could not answer specific questions about what he thought the School Board would do because that was also up to his colleagues. However, he reported that when they had the discussion at the School Board table, he had been very positive and supportive of retaining the site. He re-iterated that he would not support selling the site for one dollar and that there had to be a fair offer put on the table because, like the City, the School Board had its own challenges to address.
Councillor Deans wondered, if the City ended up paying “approximately fair market value” for the site, whether it was the delegation’s intention to ensure that the Board did not put any restrictions in the agreement with respect to the property’s use. Mr. Brockington indicated it was difficult for him to comment public, noting that the parties were in negotiations. He advised that, like the City, the School Board handled its negotiations In Camera. He reported the only thing he could say was that he was an active participant in these discussions with his colleagues at the School Board, that they had thus far had thorough discussions, and that they would continue to do so as needed. Furthermore, he re-iterated that he would advocate on behalf of his constituents for all sort of rational, logical offers before the Board. He did not want to commit to what offers he would or would not buy into without first hearing from the School Board’s own staff. In closing, he re-iterated his desire to see the site retained for public use.
Councillor Desroches submitted these were lands already owned by the taxpayers. Therefore, he felt the policies, at all levels, should be to facilitate the transfers of those lands. He wondered if the School Board would entertain a proposition to sell the land to the City at the price the School Board had paid for those lands.
Mayor O’Brien believed Mr. Brockington was supportive of having the lands remain in public trust but that at the same time, he wanted to have the money to carry on and invest in the School Board’s own infrastructure. For these reasons, he believed the School Board was looking for fair market value. Mr. Brockington responded in the affirmative.
Councillor Bloess noted that these lands were acquired with taxpayers’ dollars in the first place. He felt there were more fundamental issues at play here in terms of public uses for public spaces. He felt there should be a formula to make it more affordable for the City than to pay market value to a School Board and he indicated he would encourage staff to drive a hard bargain in these negotiations and to call upon the social conscience of the School Board to give the City a fair price.
Councillor Cullen believed the legislation governing the disposition of surplus schools provided a priority ranking to public facilities, but at the same time, gave the Board the right, in dealing with the City, the Provincial Government or the Federal Government, to get market value for the land. Mr. Brockington indicated his understanding of the legislation was that, when a School Board deemed a site surplus to its needs and agreed to dispose of the site, an Ontario regulation stipulated that the School Board had to offer “first dibs” to other local public entities first. For this reason, the School Board approached the City, the Province, the Federal Government, local colleges, universities and the other local School Boards to advise of the surplus sites and to request any offers within 90 days. He remarked that, should these other local public entities choose to make an offer, it did not have to be fair market value. However, he noted the School Board had the sites appraised and he believed the City had done the same. Should no offers be made, he reported that School Board staff usually recommended proceeding to the open market. He advised that there were some trustees who believed the School Board could get a lot more money for these sites on the open market but that the will of the majority was to work with another public entity with the goal of retaining the properties in public hands and get a fair price at the same time.
Responding to a further question from Councillor Cullen, Mr. Brockington indicated it was not his preferenced to get into the intricacies of the contract between the School Board and the City. He assumed Committee would have such discussions In Camera. However, he expressed his belief that the offer before the City was a good and fair deal and he hoped Committee would accept staff’s recommendation to acquire both sites.
Pierre Duval, a resident of Mooney’s Bay, described his property’s proximity to the Bayview site, noting that for the past 17 years, he had seen school buses going in and out of the school property. He indicated his main concern pertained to the site’s zoning, which he hoped would not change.
Marie Louise Cassis, CCC # 585, indicated she represented 87 families, located just south of the Bayview School property. She expressed discomfort that the City even had to make this decision. She advised that her community had been very vocal about the disposal of the property, about the lack of procedure followed by the School Board, and about the fact that the Provincial authority had asked them to go back to the drawing board to review their procedure. She understood that the City was in a difficult position regarding the acquisition of this property in terms of the clauses or circumstances the School Board may try to impose. She felt it was disturbing that a school with full enrollment had been shut down and that the School Board viewed this situation as a “win-win”, given the fact that any money earned from selling this property would only be used to open another school in another area. She argued this was not a win-win for her community. She indicated that she understood the financial obligations and she expressed support for Councillor McRae’s efforts to keep this site a part of her community. We trust the City would do what was needed to keep the area beautiful. She submitted the Bayview School site was an exceptional piece of property and that the City need not worry about recovering its investment.
Responding to a question from Councillor McRae, Ms. Cassis believed the community wanted to see part of the land maintained as greenspace and she submitted that public consultation with respect to the site’s future would be paramount.
In response to questions from Councillor Desroches, Mr. Finnamore advised that, with the exception of lands needed for road widenings or for the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands, the City did not acquire a whole lot of land. Mr. MacNair indicated there was not a budget allocated in connection with the Surplus Schools Acquisition policy.
The following groups and/or individuals provided written submissions in support of the purchase of the subject schools, all of which are held on file with the City Clerk:
Abbas and Mina Farid
Bill Smith and Gord Lennox
Charlotte and Richard Campion
Christian and Lisa Boudreau
Elaine and Dan Rainboth
Eleanor B. Lowe
Eleonore and Ray Benesch
French Language Services
Hunt Club – Riverside
Joyce and Morris Anderson
Kawsar and John Kruithof
Lynda Barrett and Hamid Mousa
Lynn and Robert Douglas
Mary Ellen and George Grubb
Murray and Joan Dalrymple
Ron and Christine Belanger
Rose Mae Harkness
S. Barb Thornton
Scott Proctor and Lisa Roberts
Tony and Marilyn Patrick
At this juncture, Committee moved In Camera to consider a corresponding Confidential report.
Moved by Councillor R. Bloess
That the meeting of the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee move In Camera pursuant to Section 13(1) of the Procedure By-law to consider the following report:
Surplus School Properties – 3071 Riverside Drive and 2720 Richmond Road – Owned by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board - In-Camera – Proposed Acquisition of Land by the Municipality – Report Out Date: Following Conclusions of Negotiations, Information Will Be Reported
Resuming in open session, Mayor O’Brien advised that staff had provided a motion to replace the staff recommendations, which Councillor Desroches had offered to move on their behalf.
Moved by Councillor S. Desroches
That the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee recommend to Council:
1. That staff be given direction to pursue the acquisition of 3071 Riverside Drive and 2720 Richmond Road from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board within the parameters established by Committee and Council;
2. That staff be directed to return with an appropriate redevelopment plan for these two properties in 2008, should the acquisitions be finalized; and
3. That staff provide a funding recommendation to Council at its next meeting.
CARRIED as amended