Councillors Dawn Luhning and Kim Robinson voted to delay the third reading of bylaws on Monday night that would pave the way for the joint-use school in the Westheath subdivision.
The bylaws would close streets and lanes created on paper in the 1970s and 80s, move the municipal reserve land from north of Wellington Drive where there is currently a hockey rink to the new school location in order to make room for lots, and rezone the Westheath subdivision phases 5 and 6 to accommodate the developments.
All three bylaws passed two readings on Monday night. Procedurally, city council must vote unanimously to hold a third reading to pass the bylaw at the same meeting. Robinson and Luhning voted against holding a third reading right away, delaying the process.
Robinson voiced his displeasure with the choice of location and felt a larger sample size of people needed to be consulted before this project should move ahead.
“I don't think that we, as residents of Moose Jaw, need to be told where we're going to build stuff. We want to revitalize our downtown. We talk about it all the time. Well, why would we build a school out on the very, very far outskirts? This is why I'm against it,” he said.
Luhning felt, even though she voted against heading to a third reading, it is only delaying the inevitable. That being said, she felt mistakes were made by the city in the past when it came to the school's location.
“We really didn't do as much public consultation as we should have, and maybe we should have fought harder as a city when we were blindsided with this location to say you know what, it's not available. We need to come back to the table and do some talking about it, but we didn't do that,” she said.
Coun. Jamey Logan voted in favour of taking it to a third reading. He agreed the city was blindsided by the location but feels it makes sense when he sits back and looks at it.
“They don't want to spend their money on fixing up the older schools because they're dinosaurs and it will cost a fortune to do that,” Logan said.
“I'm not trying to put words in their mouth, but this is just what I've been told and what I'm hearing. We were frustrated to start with because we weren't consulted, but when you step back and look at it, it makes sense.”
Jan Radwanski and Michel Labonte both spoke in opposition to the three bylaws, bringing up concerns about public consultation and the location of the school.
Radwanski asked the city council to stop the process in order for more public consultation, but Mayor Clive Tolley said, at this point, there is nothing the city can do.
“The horse has already left the barn. It's a decision that's been made by these two school boards. Jointly by the Ministry of Education, they've come to the city and asked to purchase land,” Tolley said.
Coun. Crystal Froese also noted that the project has already gone to tender by the school divisions.
One of the issues is that there is a belief that the new school goes against the Official Community Plan (OCP) because it is being built in the far southwest corner of the city and not in a central location.
“The Official Community Plan says that schools should be in those locations and it's not ‘shall’ under the actual Official Community Plan. So, we're not contravening the official community plan,” explained director of planning and development Michelle Sanson.
The city’s OCP is currently being overhauled and undergoing public engagement. Robinson felt there isn’t a point in people giving their opinions on the OCP if the city isn’t going to follow its recommendations.
“By their (school division’s) own admission, they've only polled 160 people and 'shall' and 'should' I get the difference, but to my earlier comments if the OCP doesn't really mean anything, why do we expect people to come out? We should do this. We're not going to, but we should. That's my issue with it,” he said.
The third reading will now take place next city council meeting on Feb. 27, giving city councillors more time to receive public input.