Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/12/2008 (3120 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
But Coun. Jenny Gerbasi says the private girls' school is trying to sneak a huge expansion past city hall and the community, while turfing out inner-city residents and creating traffic chaos.
Acting head of school Donna Alexander said the century-old school has bought two 12-unit walk-ups at 34 and 38 Langside St. directly opposite the school to meet the demand for more student residences.
But the school does not plan to expand its enrolment, she stressed.
"We're bursting at the seams right now," Alexander said.
"We're running out of space in the current residences. This neighbourhood is being bought up at a rapid pace for condominiums -- we're just flabbergasted at the costs," said Tina Alto, Balmoral Hall's director of advancement.
Alto said the school acted before prices go out of sight.
Balmoral Hall already owns one apartment building next to the school, housing 50 students plus staff.
It bought two apartment buildings directly opposite the school on the west side of Langside, as well as houses at 50 and 78 Langside, which it continues to rent to tenants.
Alto said Balmoral wanted to use one of those houses as a day-care centre, but the city rejected the idea.
She and Alexander said Balmoral has increasing demand for housing, both from international students attracted to the school and from students from rural Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario who are especially interested in playing for its high-level hockey program.
The school's enrolment has fluctuated from 450 to 550 in recent years, but "there is no expansion plan," Alexander said.
Balmoral Hall School is talking to a planner about the rezoning or city approvals it needs for eventual conversion of the two apartment buildings to student residences. Meanwhile, the school is honouring tenants' leases and would not convert either building to a student residence until all those leases had expired, Alexander said.
Gerbasi said the school should have talked to her before making any plans.
"Before they come to city hall with plans, they should be talking to the city councillor," Gerbasi said. "It appears to be a school expansion by stealth."
Despite denials from Balmoral Hall, Gerbasi claimed the school has already evicted tenants. Any conversions will reduce the area's housing stock, Gerbasi said.
"They're acquiring huge amounts of property, which to me would indicate a school expansion," Gerbasi said. "We just went through a huge fight with private-school expansion down the street."
Gerbasi said West Broadway and Armstrong Point residents have just stopped expansion plans by Westgate Mennonite Collegiate and now face the same threat from Balmoral Hall.
"There isn't room for endless expansion by private schools in a small residential enclave," Gerbasi said. "There's a whole group of people who are sitting on pins and needles."
Alexander said Balmoral Hall urges parents to use Westminster Avenue and not to drive through local residential streets. She acknowledged that the school has to do a better job of talking to its neighbours.
Alexander said she'll contact Gerbasi and will call a community consultation meeting when the school is closer to having plans ready to take to city hall.
"It is frustrating to be known as outsiders," Alto said. "For the girls who come and stay here, this is their home."