Construction of the new 16 million dollar separate school on North Dinosaur Trail hit a roadblock Tuesday, August 5, as the motion to have the property re-zoned, was denied by Town Council on a 3-3 vote.
The St. Anthony's group, led by Christ the Redeemer School Superintendent Michael O'Brien, trustee Paul Andrew and school principal Tim Gregorash, as well as representatives from the architectural firm of Gibbs Gage in Calgary, attended the council meeting in support of their application.
The 12-acre property, situated along the north side of North Dinosaur Trail, west of Quadrock Trucking, has been purchased by the province and schematic drawings for the 5,000 sq. metre school (over 16,500 sq. ft.) have already been approved by the Ministry of Infrastructure.
According to trustee Paul Andrew, working drawings will be submitted to Edmonton within the next two weeks.
"We have spent a lot of time on the planning and development of the school, and we can't pull up stakes now and search for a new site," Mr. Andrew told The Mail.
"No other suitable piece of land is available to us," said Mr. Andrew, "and the drawings we have are specific to that site."
A re-zoning application is required by anyone who wishes to change the use of a piece of property from a current use to an allowable or permitted use under local zoning bylaws.
In this case, Christ the Redeemer School Division applied to Council to have the 12-acre site re-designated from its current zoning of Highway Commercial (Hwy-C) to Public (P) which is the classification school buildings fall under.
Mr. O'Brien told Council the school is prepared to provide 100 per cent bussing to students in order for them to arrive and depart from the school safely.
In communication with Alberta Transportation, the traffic access and egress to North Dinosaur Trail has or will be accommodated to avoid any traffic congestion.
The busiest time for traffic along North Dinosaur Trail is, of course, in summer as the tourist traffic increases.
This is however, when the school is closed for summer holidays.
There were two letters reviewed by the town about the proposed school, both from neighbouring landowners.
One, from a landowner across North Dinosaur Trail from the proposed site did not object to the development, but was mainly concerned about possible water drainage issues that could affect their property, and wanted the town to be aware of their concern.
Another verbal submission came from Don Chambers who owns commercial property across North Dinosaur Trail. Mr. Chambers told the hearing he felt it was inappropriate to have a school between residential homes and a construction firm (to the east).
Mr. O'Brien told Council in his presentation "it is an exciting time for Drumheller," citing the $20 million renovation of the Composite High School for the public board, and the new construction of the separate school, and "having money in place for both projects". According to Mr. O'Brien, both provincial departments, Infrastructure and Education, have approved the site and provided full funding for the school.
A letter to the town dated March 24 of this year was when the first notice of intent was given to have the parcel of land re-zoned to a public use. Included in the site plan is room for a soccer pitch, running track, field hockey/football field, and Christ the Redeemer School Division is eager to enter into a joint-use agreement with the town for community enjoyment of the facility.
Voting in favour of the re-zoning which allows the school the proper designation were councillors Bertamini and Yemen, along with Mayor Bryce Nimmo.
Against the land-use change were councillors Berdahl, Shoff and Guidolin. Councillor Blaine McDonald was absent from the meeting.
Councillor Shoff told the School Board representatives to rethink their proposal, as she was fearful of the heavy traffic flow North Dinosaur Trail carries.
Councillor Guidolin added his personal thought that the school was "totally inappropriate along Dinosaur Trail" and he prefers the present site. He suggested to the meeting the St. Anthony's students be taught in the Central School after the public school retrofit of D.C.H.S. is completed; (Editor's Note: For the 2008-2010 school years, D.C.H.S. students will be taught in Central School while the school is renovated), and the new Catholic school be built on the same site they presently occupy on 12th Street East in Riverview.
Councillor Berdahl stated although he thought the project "was a worthy one and a valuable asset to our community", he was against the re-zoning because in his mind, this parcel of land was the last sizeable Highway Commercial piece of land still available and did not want a school located on the site.
Councillor Bertamini, who voted for the motion, wanted the developers to make the school grounds as "safe as possible," as this was a concern for her.
When the vote failed, clearly Mayor Bryce Nimmo was disappointed.
"It would seem we are the only jurisdiction in Canada that would turn down a school," he told The Mail.
As well, Mr. O'Brien indicated to The Mail his group was "extremely disappointed in the vote from last night's Council meeting on the re-zoning of the school site to allow for construction of a new school."
"That being said, we understand some members of Council had concerns that we need to address in order for them to feel comfortable with a new school on that site. We were pleased that Council is having another pubic meeting on the zoning change (time and date to be determined). The school division will be meeting with each councillor and the mayor to better understand their concerns and to communicate to them how the school division plans to address these concerns.
"I believe by working together with Town Council we can move this project forward in a timely manner in order to provide a long overdue new facility for St. Anthony's School in the Town of Drumheller."
The school board made it clear they would re-apply as quickly as possible because according to Mr. Andrew, "We have no other suitable options and our designs have been made to fit the site."
He told The Mail that he and his board officials wanted to meet with members of Council to further explain their position.
Mayor Bryce Nimmo has called a special meeting of Council for Monday, August 18 at 4:30 p.m. where the re-zoning issue will be discussed.