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EDITORIAL: Ship to wreck

February 2nd, 2016 · No Comments

Razor Management Inc., which operates the existing athletic facility at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute and is installing a similar field at Central Technical School, announced this month that it had received an unexpected retroactive municipal tax bill of $505,000 relating to the Monarch Park facility. It has also been informed that it will face similar levies at Central Tech once that field is up and running.

It’s a bill that will make operating the site untenable for Razor, and as a result, Razor has said it will cease construction at Central Tech, be forced to eliminate youth programming at Monarch Park, and increase the rates for private users by 78 per cent.

In a January news release, Razor claims that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has ignored a senior staff report recommending a tax exemption for all “championship field partners as the projects were built primarily for the benefit of students”. The company further claims that no other private operator currently providing services to the school board has ever received a tax bill. Yet, the school board has not come to Razor’s defence, and seems prepared to let them wither.

The TDSB’s plan to contract the operation of the field to a private operator has long been a contentious one. The previous condition of the field and track at Central Tech was poor, and soil tests suggest that the field was contaminated. There’s little room in the TDSB budget for site maintenance, and nothing whatsoever for soil remediation.

And so the TDSB touted its partnership with Razor as a panacea: the tainted soil would be removed, the track rebuilt, low maintenance artificial turf installed, and an inflatable dome puffed up during the winter months. The school board has access to the entire facility during school hours, the community gets some free access during the weekends (as well as sponsorship of a community swim program), and the space is available for rent during the rest of the time. The TDSB would be on the hook for $0 and only has to give away access to the site in the off-season and after-hours periods.

However, the City of Toronto and the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) opposed the plan. Although they had a philosophical beef with the proposal — arguing what they claimed was public land being effectively ceded to a private party — they also were not content with the level of community access, as well as concerned about the visual impact of the giant dome, the merits of artificial turf, and the impact on parking and traffic from new users coming from outside the community.

However, the interested parties — including the TDSB, the HVRA, the city, and Razor — reached a mediated settlement at the Ontario Municipal Board. The terms included a smaller dome, increased community access, and setting up a working group that would address any local concerns on a case-by-case basis.

It appears, however, that opponents of the deal, after conceding the battle, never gave up the war.

A city official (it’s not clear who) appears to have requested a property tax review of Razor’s operations at Monarch Park and Central Tech, leading to the assessment and tax bill. It seems someone would prefer to see Razor fail under the weight of the tax burden, and the TDSB hasn’t yet stepped up to the plate with a ringing endorsement of its partner in delivering a state-of-the-art athletics facility to its students.

To say that this is a cutthroat strategy is an understatement: the opponents of this plan seem intent on ensuring that everybody loses if they can’t win. It’s a scorched earth policy whose biggest victims are the ones the board is supposed to serve: the students. After three years without a field at Central Tech, it looks like they won’t get one anytime soon. And it looks like some will graduate never even having seen anything but a locked fence.

 

READ MORE ABOUT CENTRAL TECH FIELD:

Construction halted at Central Tech: Student athletes launch online petition by Marielle Torrefranca (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: General