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Council gives silent treatment to resident’s concerns about new school location

South Hill resident Jan Radwanski spoke to city council on Jan. 23 about his desire to see more public consultations around the school project.
South Hill resident Jan Radwanski speaks to city council on Jan. 23 about his concerns with the proposed location of the joint-use school. Photo by Jason G. Antonio

City council should follow its policies and hold a public information session about proposed changes to the Westheath concept plan in relation to the joint-use school project, a concerned resident says.

Public consultations are important, especially since Bylaw No. 5642 and The Planning Public Notice Policy stipulate such measures, Jan Radwanski said on Jan. 23 in a presentation to city council. 

Radwanski’s concerns were related to council’s decision in December to waive a public information session and on-site advertising for the rezoning and sale of municipal reserve land to the school divisions for the new school. 

The former Prairie South School Division trustee has had concerns about the proposed location since it was announced in September 2019

Council gave the silent treatment to Radwanski’s presentation because members asked no questions and made no comments afterwards. Instead, they voted to receive and file the report and moved to the next agenda item.  

In comparison, some councillors were concerned about the location in September 2020.

Area challenges

The Planning Public Notice Policy says public consultations should happen for major zoning amendments, Radwanski said, which include total land area of two hectares or more, the addition of 50 or more dwelling units and/or parcels, or major changes in land-use intensity.

One problem with the proposed location is the traffic challenges because roughly 1,000 students will need to be transported there, he continued. About 21 buses will take 750 students, while the remaining 250 will likely be driven and must manoeuvre through busy bus corrals and pickup zones. 

Furthermore, a full traffic impact assessment (TIA) report has never been completed, even though it was part of the memorandum of understanding that council signed with Prairie South, Holy Trinity and the Ministry of Education. 

“But because the data provided by the City of Moose Jaw was over 10 years old, only a limited TIA was done, so it left a lot of big question marks in terms of safety,” said Radwanski. “It also leads into a lack of transparency and genuine engagement.”

Location preferences

The three education parties announced in 2018 that they planned to build a new joint-use school and open it in 2021, Radwanski said. They held two public engagement sessions in June 2019, but one occurred on Grade 8 graduation night, which prevented parents and staff from attending. 

Prairie South’s preferred school location was always on a 10-acre site in the far southwest corner of South Hill, while the board only approved that spot after a report from consulting firm KPMG was provided to trustees in a public session and they had a few minutes to discuss it before voting on it, the former trustee claimed. 

There were no public consultations about the boards’ preferred location choice of Westheath, while of the four spots presented during the June 2019 meeting, most people preferred either Sacred Heart or Westmount, Radwanski said. 

‘Nitty-gritty’ issues

Radwanski thought the motion council adopted in December was “odd” because The Planning and Development Act does not permit municipalities to sell municipal reserve land to school boards, he noted. Moreover, the motion specified that the sale would also be to the provincial government.

“That is another reason we should have a public consultation on this (so we can) get to the nitty-gritty on this,” he said. 

Radwanski pointed to comments from Education Minister Dustin Duncan about building a second school in Harbour Landing in Regina, with the minister saying it’s not the province’s role to find or purchase land for such projects. That responsibility lies with The Queen City under The Planning and Development Act. 
“So here we are in Moose Jaw selling land to the provincial government for a joint-use school that had no public consultation … ,” Radwanski remarked. “For us that live in Moose Jaw, we really take for granted our educational locations we have for our schools. This is a major, major shift to go to one school on South Hill.” 

Taxpayers’ money

It makes sense to have public consultations considering there will be one school on South Hill offering kindergarten to Grade 8 education, he continued. Meanwhile, millions in taxpayers’ money have helped upgrade school infrastructure — ball diamonds, soccer fields, spray parks and playgrounds — and now the city and boards plan to walk away.

The former trustee claimed that the school would have a 125-spot parking lot that is bigger than the one at city hall, meaning there would be little room for children to play.

“Is that ‘get a life’? I think that’s a pretty docile life,” Radwanski said. “For us to transport (kids) to basically a Costco-sized warehouse two-and-a-half storeys up, underneath a student flight plan from 15 Wing, with already major, major challenges to traffic (is ridiculous).” 

OCP concerns

The Official Community Plan (OCP) says schools must be centrally located if they serve more than one neighbourhood, while schools should be located near amenities, he continued. Instead, some of the community’s brightest and most vulnerable populations will be educated in a location with traffic challenges.

“We are so compressed for space on this project, we have to move the hockey rink onto it to satisfy the greenspace requirements under the OCP and our bylaws,” Radwanski added. “This just shows how important this issue is … .”

City hall will hold a public hearing about zoning bylaw changes for this location during the Monday, Feb. 13 meeting, a council report said, which is when residents can present concerns. 

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