Advocating for school capacity in planning decisions

Bessborough School in Leaside.
Bessborough School in Leaside.

The Laird in Focus Site and Area Specific Policy (SASP) is a development plan currently working its way through city government and described on the City’s website as “a vision and plan to guide growth and future development” in the Laird/Eglinton area. As your TDSB trustee, I am concerned about this plan’s implications for our local schools.

In recent years, TDSB and its real estate subsidiary, Toronto Lands Corporation (TLC), have consulted with city planners regarding language in development studies, and their collaboration on Midtown in Focus succeeded in enshrining language emphasizing the importance of local school capacity as essential in creating complete communities. This landmark achievement would not have happened without that collaboration.

Unfortunately, the province’s omnibus Bill 108 eliminated all language related to school infrastructure in the Midtown in Focus plan, and has essentially stripped the City of most of its power to regulate development.

Despite these setbacks, TDSB continues to advocate for inclusion of language and policies in Laird in Focus that speak directly to local school capacity as part of creating complete communities. TLC has been in regular communication on this issue with Dianne Silver, city planner for Laird in Focus, and has written numerous letters outlining our concerns. Our three chief priorities are:

1) not to allow development to outpace the provision of community services and facilities;

2) to ensure that residential development will be phased in order to provide adequate provision and distribution of educational facilities as an integral element of the local community;

3) to enact a holding bylaw ensuring adequate local community services and facilities will be met before residential development is approved.

When the most recent draft of Laird in Focus was released and ready to come before North York Community Council for consideration in early November, the language we had hoped to see included was absent. TDSB followed up with certain steps: TLC made written submissions; I was in contact with Councillor Robinson’s office to raise our concerns; and I appeared before the North York Community Council and also provided written submissions to the committee.

When I deputed before the Council, councillors peppered me with questions. What ensued was a productive discussion regarding schools as essential infrastructure. In addition, Councillor Robinson, currently on medical leave, had a colleague introduce a motion on her behalf which included school capacity as one of the important considerations in planning matters. To ensure the smooth, successful development of complete and full communities, it is important that various levels of government, along with community members and representatives, combine their efforts and expertise. Despite the changes brought by Bill 108, I am hopeful that by advocating and collaborating wherever possible, we can make local school capacity a key consideration in planning for the future.

About Rachel Chernos Lin 7 Articles
Rachel Chernos Lin is TDSB Trustee for Ward 11.