By a 2-1 vote, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals has ruled in favour of Jono Developments’ appeal of the St. Patrick’s Alexandra decision.
There’s a long and tortured history to this issue, which can be summed up as follows:
September, 2000: HRM council adopts surplus school procedure, requiring that such school sites first be offered to community groups. The procedure says the city will determine if any community group’s proposal is worthy; if so, the community group would acquire the property, if not, the property would then be put on the open market. The procedure is immediately forgotten, and never applied.
March, 2008: the Halifax Regional School Board declares St. Patrick’s Alexandra Elementary School surplus, with the school to close at the end of the 2011 school year.
June 28, 2011: HRM takes possession of the school and issues a Request For Proposal looking for potential buyers of the site.
September 1, 2011: HRM takes possession of the school.
Fall, 2011: JONO Developments, two other developers, and three non-profit groups submit proposals.
November 21, 2011: HRM staff write a report to council recommending sale of the school site to Jono.
December 13, 2011: HRM council votes to approve the sale to Jono.
Late December, 2011: Community groups learn of the 2000 procedure for surplus schools.
January 9, 2012: Sale of the school is executed.
January 10, 2012: At an emergency meeting, HRM council votes to rescind its December 13, 2011 approval of the sale.
January 19, 2012: A staff report concedes that the sale violated the 2000 policy.
January 24, 2012: HRM council passes a resolution to approve the school as surplus, repeals the 2000 procedure, and agrees to the sale of the school to Jono.
January 31, 2012: HRM passed a motion to repeal the 2000 procedure and approves the sale to Jono for $3 million.
February 1, 2012: The community groups file suit, asking for a judicial review and stay of the sale. A judge issues the stay, pending a hearing.
September 24, 2012: Justice David MacAdam rules in the community groups’ favour, quashes the sale.
Late 2012: Jono appeals MacAdam’s ruling.
May 14, 2014: The Court of Appeals hears Jono’s appeal of MacAdam’s decision.
Today’s decision reverses MacAdam’s ruling, and reinstates the sale of the school to Jono at the agreed upon $3 million price.
Does the Ivany Report need any more proof of why NS is in a downward spiral – then look no farther than this Appeals decision. It is unjust on so many levels and all caused by the last Municipal Council and their ignorance in the first place. A sad day indeed for the North End community, Halifax and Nova Scotia.
Hope leave to appeal is sought from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on St. Pat’s Appeal Court ruling. Unfortunately, cost may be a determining factor. It’s my understanding that awarding of costs is discretionary. If so, their application and function in the justice system is punitive.
Accessing our justice system should not be a de facto privilege in which a “loser” is “punished.” Our court system is fundamental to democracy and should not be an arena confined to the affluent or those who can bear the cost of losing. Legal costs of simply accessing it are already exorbitant, and have been a subject of concern and have been publicly addressed by our Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin.
In a nutshell, in my words, but as stated more elegantly in the Appeal preamble,
1. HRM violated their year 2000 enacted procedure (ignorance is not a defense for common folk)
2. Once made aware of it, and with their delegated power, HRM simply voted to rescind the original enacted (pesky) procedure
3. That annoying impediment out of the way, HRM returned to their original intent
If this is considered fair and not an abuse of HRM’s institutional power, it sets a disturbing precedent and should be challenged.
St. Patrick’s Alexandra School:
This is a case with wider implications. Both Jono Developments and the community groups were victims of incompetent city staff and some particularly blind decision-making by Council. The problem that ensued needed to be addressed in another manner than through the adversarial forum of the courts. Our system has failed the people on this one.
I was thinking the exact same thing – incompetent city staff
There seems to be a lot of issues in HRM over the years caused by incompetent city staff.
What is being done to look at these sometimes massive blunders and making sure they do not happen again?
As far as the 2000 HRM policy decision, I am a bit shocked that staff didn’t know about this policy. It should have been front and center when dealing with any surplus school buildings. Even I knew about this policy.
In 2011, there were others schools that were deemed surplus as well and because of the bungle, their fate was delayed as well and now at least 2 will be torn down even after groups put forth their proposals, etc. West Chezzetcook School should have been given back to the church from whence it came from originally but now will be demolished due to severe deterioration and the space will be a parking area. Bell Annex had groups interested in it but now it will also be demolished because of deterioration and will become the location for an all weather sports field in the area, albeit the area should benefit greatly from this new facility too.