Several vehicles parked along the curb in front of a three storey institutional looking building clad in brown and light blue panels.
The complex off McLaughlin Drive in Moncton includes a daycare and two schools that will have a capacity of 1,300 students. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton is considering rezoning a piece of land for new francophone schools for the second time in three years because the New Brunswick government decided not to comply with the conditions city councillors imposed the first time.

The province went ahead with construction of the adjoining schools at 620 McLaughlin Dr. despite municipal zoning there that doesn’t allow schools.

“It’s currently a violation of zoning and we try not to have those as often as we can,” Josh Adams, a senior planner with the city, told reporters Monday.

“So we’ve been working with the province to try to gain compliance on that and they’ve been very helpful and they want to be following the City of Moncton’s rules too.”

A man with somewhat messy short brown hair wearing glasses, a black suit, pink suit and multi-colored tie.
Josh Adams, a senior planner with the City of Moncton, says the rezoning for the school was never completed because the province didn’t agree to conditions city council added in 2020. (Shane Magee/CBC)

École Claudette-Bradshaw, a kindergarten to Grade 5 school, will open in the fall on the site. École Le Mascaret, a Grade 6 to 8 school, opened in January. The complex has a combined capacity of 1,300 students. It will also include a daycare.

Councilors voted in April 2020 to rezone the property from residential use to community use, which allows schools.

After a lengthy public hearing in which neighbors raised concerns about the loss of trees and the proximity of dumpsters to homes, two conditions were added by the council. The conditions called for the province to install a two meter tall wooden fence between the schools and homes, and to plant more trees.

Province rejected conditions

At Monday’s council meeting it was revealed the province opted to reject the conditions and as a result the rezoning was never formally completed.

Adams told reporters the province didn’t want to put up a fence around the site.

Residential properties of atop a hill with minimal landscaping are shown in the background with dumpsters and a small building with a garage door in the foreground.
The latest rezoning request includes a condition to install a 1.8-metre chain link fence with privacy slats to separate the properties along Kelly Road, shown at the top of the hill, from the school site. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Legislation previously allowed the province to override local zoning, so the city issued a building permit for schools despite the zoning issue. The law has since changed to require the province to consider local zoning.

“In the spirit of these legislative changes, we’ve attempted to rezone the property for a second time in order to close that file,” Adams told councillors in French.

The request, which requires multiple meetings and another public hearing, includes a condition to install a 1.8-metre tall chain link fence separating the homes and dumpsters.

It’s not clear if the province, which rejects a wooden fence, will accept a chain link fence.

No one from the province spokesperson at Monday’s council meeting.

A satellite image shows a large building with a white roof surrounded by dirt and two sports fields among a residential subdivision.
The 2020 rezoning called for a fence along the northern portion of the property to separate the school site from homes along Kelly Road shown at the top of the image. The school property is outlined in red. (City of Moncton)

Count. Paul Richard, who represents the area, questioned whether the city had a choice in issuing the permit.

Adams said that issuing the permit allowed the city to collect building permit fees on the multi-million dollar project.

“We really didn’t have a choice because the construction was going to go ahead whether we gave them the permit or not,” Adams said. “So it was better for us to agree to it.”

Provincial decisions about schools in the Moncton area, such as relocating Moncton High School from downtown to the northern edge of the city, have generated controversy.

The 2020 public hearing for the francophone schools happened while some council members were frustrated over the site selection for another school in the city’s west end.

Count. Charles Léger and other councillors are threatened with rejecting the francophone school rezoning request during that public hearing unless the province addresses the concerns of residents. Councillors then added the two conditions which the province ultimately opted to reject.

Public hearing in May

Léger, who had called for changes to the school site selection process, said he’s now seeing progress by the province.

“I think the process now is certainly much better than it once was,” Léger said in an interview Monday.

“We’re trying to avoid situations where the municipalities feel like they’ve not been consulted and it’s frustrating for municipalities, frustrating for citizens.”

Councilors voted unanimously in favor of first reading of the new rezoning bylaw Monday.

The vote sends the rezoning request to Moncton’s planning advisory committee for consideration.

Council will hold a public hearing on May 15.

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