It was standing room only at a public information session Thursday on a private school and equestrian centre proposed for rural Halton Hills. Several residents took the opportunity to voice their concerns about the Keswick Sutherland School proposed for the Eighth Line (between 27 and 32 Sideroads). One of their top concerns was the increased traffic they said would be coming and going to the school impacting safety on the road. At the session, held at the Civic Centre, Lois Fraser, who lives across the road from the proposed school, said the facility would generate enough traffic for 50 houses and she told the council members at the meeting that if Eighth Line is deemed unsafe they know it will cost millions of dollars to fix the "S" curve in the road. "And if you spend our tax money doing that, we're going to be really pissed," said Fraser. She said she was putting council members on notice that if they allow the application to be approved without fixing the road, the residents in the area won't stand for it. "You're going to be sorry because there will be huge liability issues," said Fraser. The 10,000 sq. ft. proposed private school for 150 students, founded by Jesus Cordoba and Callie Scheichl, is to be built on a 95.5-acre property adjacent to Scotsdale Farm and is to include an 11,000 sq. ft barn and stable, and approximately 40,000 sq. ft. riding arena. A regional official plan amendment and Niagara Escarpment development permit are required for the application to be approved. A public meeting on the application will be held at Halton Region next Wednesday (Feb. 22) at 9:30 a.m. Fraser stressed that the school is actually a private business, and that the equestrian centre is larger than the business that employs 100 people she and her husband own on Armstrong Ave. "What this applicant is trying to do is build a business. This is not airy-fairy butterflies and grass, this is a business," said Fraser.
She said while the Town of Halton Hills official plan permits small institutional uses on the property that serve the residents of the rural area, the proposed school "is going to serve people from all over." "If we lived on a safe road and this was a public elementary school I would fully support it going in there," said Fraser. "I am opposed to the region amending the (Official) Plan for a private school," said Eighth Line resident Arsenio Braga. "This is zoned agricultural/rural and it should stay that way."
Braga said he had almost been rearended on the Eighth Line because of cars coming too fast over a knoll on the road. He also said he had seen two cars and a bus hit a hydro pole on that road. A 27 Sideroad resident, also raised concerns about the extra traffic generated by the proposed school and said there is a deer corridor on her road. "I'd hate to see them relocate because of traffic," she said. Another Eighth Line resident said the proposed school would not increase property values in the area, and would result in more traffic and noise. Also raising traffic concerns was Maureen Smith of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club and area resident Mike Pearson who stressed the road already needs more attention. He added, he didn't think the Town should underestimate the risk on that narrow road. Kevin Maccoll, another Eighth Line resident, said there would have to be "a substantial leveling" of the road to make it safe.
Maccoll also said if the school is said Katherine Braga, a teacher, who approved area residents should be entitled to a significant tax reduction because of the impact to their neighbourhood.
Pat Thibodeau, a Grade 2 teacher at a public French school in Guelph who lives near the proposed school is also worried the traffic will increase dramatically if the school is built. He said at his school, which has
approximately the same number of students (150) proposed for the private school, there are nine buses and 174 vehicles coming and going each morning and afternoon.
"It's very naive to think 150 kids are going to come in three buses." said Thibodeau.
Howard Shropshall of the Eighth Line was concerned about response times to the school from emergency serives.
"We don't need a private school," said Katherine Braga, a teacher, who lives beside the property where the school is proposed. "We have pleanty of schools." She also said an equestrian centre isn't needed either, and named several in the area.
"I don't want a school close to me, I don't need it," she said. "I don't feel its necessary to build such a huge facility in the midst of nature in order to observe it better," said a Tenth Line resident. Al Fraser, who lives across the street from the proposed school, said the applicants are proposing to operate are their business on evenings and week ends as well as through the week. "That's going to change the very basic nature of our neighbourhood," he said. Water was a key concern raised by Acton resident Jean Hilborn. She said water studies done by applicants need to be redone as the water pumping test was done in June 2003 when the water table is high. She was also concerned only a small number of area residents took part in the well study, and about the runoff from the paddocks at the facility. "I think the safety of our water is at risk," said Hilborn, who suggested an alternative site the applicants should consider for their school is the former Speyside School on Hwy. 25. Speaking in the favour of the school was Timber Ct. resident Kent McClure. He said the school will provide the community with more education choices for their children and attract "high value" businesses to the area. "Parents will not have to bus or carpool their children long distances to other areas," said McClure. "It will enhance the value of local properties," he said. "I see a need for private schools at this point because of the cuts that have happened in the public school system," said a Peel District School Board teacher who recently lost the use of her music room at her school. At the meeting the applicants showed a presentation on the proposed school and their planner Glenn Wellings said they had made significant effort to integrate the proposal into the natural environment. He said the school would be located in the central pasture area of the property and wouldn't be visible from Eighth Line. Wellings said if the school was publicly operated, instead of private, it would comply with the Regional Official Plan.