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Construction halted at Central Tech

February 2nd, 2016 · 1 Comment

Student athletes launch online petition

By Marielle Torrefranca

In the latest of a saga of hurdles, construction of Central Technical School’s $7-million sports facility has been stopped until further notice, said Razor Management Inc. (RMI).

According to a Razor news release, the work stoppage comes after the company received a three-year retroactive tax bill of $505,000 for its stadium at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, plus approximately $200,000 a year moving forward for each of its facilities. The bill was allegedly received 38 days before its due date at the end of January.

“We are being bullied by the city on the tax issue”—Matthew Raizenne, Razor

The Monarch Park Stadium and unfinished Central Tech sports facility are projects resulting from Razor’s partnership with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). With the tax bills, Razor said it’s unable to support the funding of both locations.

“We let the TDSB know in October that we had serious concerns about what was happening at Monarch Park,” said Matthew Raizenne, president of Razor Management.

According to a news release from Razor, TDSB trustees ignored a senior staff report recommending a tax exemption for its affiliated championship field partners, since the projects primarily benefit TDSB students.

The news release states that similar tax exemptions have been granted to city partners, such as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s Lamport Stadium, and Field Recreation Inc.’s field at Lakeshore Collegiate.

“It’s politically targeted in our beliefs,” said Raizenne. “We’re trying to get to the bottom of it.”

However, the TDSB said the tax bill shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

“It’s important to note the agreement between the TDSB and Razor Management states that RMI is responsible for payment of any of taxes assessed by the property,” said Ryan Bird, media relations for the TDSB.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), which administers property assessments in Ontario, emailed Monarch Park Stadium in February, saying the City of Toronto had asked MPAC to update its records and review the tax status on the new structures at Monarch Park. This included Monarch Park Stadium.

“It’s just normal procedure,” said Darlene Rich, media relations specialist for MPAC of assessment. “That’s not anything other than normal.”

“You can’t automatically compare other properties that appear to be similar,” she said. “They all have their individual agreements with the property owner, for instance, with the TDSB. Agreements that one company has could be completely different than the other.”

The cost of the bill is set by the city, however. Razor has the option to request an appeal for a property reassessment through MPAC, but the company has not done so, said Rich.

The TDSB is also willing to provide Razor with non-monetary support in a reassessment appeal, said Bird.

“We’re trying to figure out who from the city has the impact to assess us,” said Raizenne, adding Razor filed Freedom of Information requests in mid-January, but has yet to receive the information it had requested.

The company also reached out to the mayor’s office late last month, requesting clarity on the city’s alleged assessment request and the tax bill.

“We believe we are being bullied by the City of Toronto on the tax issue,” Raizenne wrote in an email to the mayor’s office. “The city has come down on only us and there is no justified reason for this.”

A representative from the Mayor’s office responded, saying MPAC is a corporation independent from the City of Toronto whose role is to assess the value of all property in the province, and that there is “no picking and choosing.”

“It was always agreed and understood from the beginning that Razor Management was responsible for paying any commercial taxes that would apply to the site,” said Joe Cressy (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina). “It’s the TDSB’s land and it’s up to the TDSB whether to exempt those taxes.”

“In our city, businesses should pay commercial taxes. I think that’s fair and only fair for all businesses, but that amount of tax should be fair and taken into account the implied services of the project.”

While the crux of this issue is commercial tax, this project has now seen years of obstacles since its proposal in the spring of 2013.

After mediation by the Ontario Municipal Board last spring, the original construction plan was scaled back due to opposition from residents. The compromise included a smaller dome covering only the field during winter months and allowing community use of the turf during evenings and weekends.

“That resolution and that agreement is what I am committed to honouring and making sure it goes forward,” said Cressy.

However, with construction at a standstill, the field will not be open in time for Central Tech’s spring athletics season, much to the dismay of students and the school’s athletic teams.

A group of student athletes have started an online petition that includes a letter to TDSB trustees and Education Minister Liz Sandals.

“We are asking you, after nearly three years, to please get on with it,” reads the letter, “and if you don’t want to have a great facility at Central Tech and you do not want to be our ‘champions’ to get the project through the finish line, and would prefer to let the site sit empty, just do us all a favour and let us know now, so that we can transfer to other schools or other school boards [that] value sport and athletics and are willing to stand up for their students’ interests and well-being.”

At press time, the petition had received over 600 signatures.

“We appreciate that both students and staff and the community want this field finished,” said Bird. “And we don’t want them to wait any longer either…. We want to see this field finished.”

Both the Mayor’s office and Cressy expressed concern over students having access to recreational space. While Razor shared the same sentiment, it was adamant about its cause.

“We are 100 per cent committed to the project,” said Raizenne. “We just asked the school board for assistance and to be treated equally and not to be discriminated against. But we’re 100 per cent committed and we’re hopeful that a resolution can be found imminently.”

 

READ MORE ABOUT CENTRAL TECH FIELD:

Editorial: Ship to wreck (February 2016)

Agreement reached for Central Tech field (April 2015) by Annemarie Brissenden

To dome or not to dome, that is the question (February 2015) by Terri Chu

Editorial: Mobs don’t rule, nor do pawns (February 2015)

Dome plan inches closer (February 2015) by Brian Burchell

School board appeals ruling and loses, again (October 2014) by Brian Burchell

Editorial: A strategy run amok (September 2014)

Dome plan quashed by courts (September 2014) by Brian Burchell

Raucous meeting on CTS field (April 2014) by Annemarie Brissenden

 

READ MORE ABOUT CENTRAL TECH:

Central Tech alumni return to mark school’s centennial (November 2015) by Annemarie Brissenden

Central Tech celebrates 100 years (July 2015) by Annemarie Brissenden

Aircraft program grounded in 2004 (July 2015) by Annemarie Brissenden

Tags: Annex · News · General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 EDITORIAL: Ship to wreck // Feb 2, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    […] Construction halted at Central Tech: Student athletes launch online petition by Marielle Torrefranca (February 2016) […]