UPDATED: Will This Milton Farm be Destroyed to Build a School?
A Milton family is fighting to save a farm they’ve lived on for seven generations after a school board announced plans to build a high school next to it.
“Our family has no intention on leaving our farm and this expropriation and construction is not only dangerous but could destroy our operation,” reads a petition posted by Jessica McCann, 20.
“This is an operation that we have worked to keep in our family for 200 years and that we continue to work to uphold every day.”
Her parents, Dave and Cindy McCann, have been vendors at the Milton Farmers’ Market for years.
The family has owned the land since 1827.
The Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) is eyeing about 20 acres to house 1,500 high school students due to growing enrolment.
“This is a very poor decision on the part of the school because you do not put 1,400 students in the middle of a working cattle farm,” wrote McCann.
“These young people will be incredibly close to herds of unpredictable 2,000-pound beef animals which would create a very hazardous work and school situation.”
There are 2,300 acres of undeveloped land around the farm, McCann said, “much of which are the fields” immediately next door.
She blames developers for creating “the need for yet another school in Milton.”
More than 32,000 signatures have been gathered as of Wednesday morning.
“This is poor planning,” wrote Bruce Sargent.
“Build where it will not have a negative impact on this family farm. This will make it impossible for their operation to continue.”
Bonnita Herriott had another viewpoint.
“Why aren't developers responsible for this urban sprawl held responsible for upgrading the infrastructure it depends on (and often ruins)?,” she asked.
The school board’s senior administrator of planning services Frederick Thibeault said a variety of factors are taken into account when determining the location of a new school site, “ensuring that the school site is located in a centralized area to serve the best interests of the students and families that reside close by. Ultimately, building a new school site will accommodate the growing needs of the Milton community.”
In addition, “a comprehensive planning process” takes place by the municipal government before determining a site that will accommodate increased student enrolment in the community.
The Boyne East Secondary Plan was developed in consultation with the Town of Milton and Halton Region, said Thibeault, and the board “used the proposed land use plan of the approved Boyne East Secondary Plan to decipher an optimal location to place a secondary school, while meeting the above noted factors in determining a site location.”
Enrolment in Milton has been “steadily increasing year over year at a rapid pace and is expected to continue growing as large Grade 8 cohorts begin to reach secondary school,” said Thibeault.
There are currently two Catholic secondary schools in Milton: Bishop P.F. Reding and Jean Vanier, which opened in 2013.
“For the 2018-19 school year, there are already a total of approximately 3,500 students registered to both schools, surpassing their respective building capacities,” said Thibeault.
There will be 20 portables at Jean Vanier and 43 portable classrooms at Bishop P. F. Reding to accommodate Milton high school students during the 2018-19 school year.
Jean Vanier is a three-storey site and Bishop P.F. Reding is a two-storey site, “which is our board standard in terms of accommodating 1,500 pupil places for each secondary school,” said Thibeault.
As far as safety concerns in terms of housing students next to a farm, “additional acreage is required to introduce a service block to provide the required water and wastewater services to the school site. Additional road access to the school facility is also required on two frontages,” said Thibeault.
“The service block should serve to address some of the concerns in regard to the proximity to the barns where cattle are being held.”
The road will serve as a buffer between the school and farming operations, Thibeault added, and buffering “would be further maximized with fencing between the two properties. The school facility and other site elements will be oriented in a manner that maximizes safety, and the necessary measures will be put in place to ensure that land uses are not adversely impacted by one another.”
Board officials are predicting that by the 2020-21 school year both high schools in Milton will have reached their full building and portable classroom capacity.
“With that said, there is a greater need to open a new secondary school in the Town of Milton,” said Thibeault.
“The proposed opening date would be no earlier than the 2021-2022 school year.”
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