Closing Urban Schools to Pay for Sprawl Schools

By Jason Leach
Published May 23, 2007

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) report in their latest email update that sprawl is responsible for closing inner city schools.

In discussion around an application by Empire Communities (Binbrook) Ltd. to build 426 single-family houses, 190 townhouses and a commercial block on 73 acres in Binbrook, Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie spoke out:

On learning that five new schools are scheduled for the booming area, ward one councillor Brian McHattie asked, "which schools are going to be closed to allow those five to be built, and where are those, throughout the city, the west mountain or upper Stoney Creek?"

He referred to a presentation made recently to the west Hamilton school planning committee he chairs that directly linked school closures with the pressure on the school boards to fund construction of new schools in growth areas.

"It's just amazing to look at the planning that's occurred over the years with city council promoting urban sprawl, and moving ever southwards into the farmland," he declared. "At the same time, there's schools in the existing part of the city, and of course what we're seeing today is a lot of those schools being closed down."

Gee, it took us 30 years to figure this out?

Well, let's see: if you tax the heck out of the urban city and use that tax money to build roads and highways to new subdivisions in the boonies, what happens?

People move there, leave the urban city (why not? They get more property and a newer house for much less tax than the existing one ­ thanks to you and me) and as far as I can tell, the children of these families usually move with the parents.

It isn't rocket science, councillors. It's called sprawl and it's been killing cities on our fine continent for decades. Perhaps a day trip to Detroit is in order for our council.

Unfortunately, Binbrook councillor Dave Mitchell (who else?) just doesn't seem to get it.

"It's development was designed around the fact the local people in the area, with the new laws, couldn't live in their home town that they were born and raised in without water and sewers. So this is the development of a town. It is not urban sprawl as I know it, because it is not the city growing fatter."

Mitchell's big complaint about the development? It's too dense. "Glanbrook council didn't design the new rules of intensification that we're going by, and I do not support all the intensification that's happening there as well."

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By Al Rathbone (anonymous) | Posted May 23, 2007 at 21:39:56

Sprawl doesn't just close the school by draining tax dollars. Thats a very small part of it. The main part of it is all the people moving to the suburbs so the inner city schools are nearly empty sometimes.

I believe this has a much bigger effect then tax drain.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 23, 2007 at 22:17:58

you're right Al. That's why I commented that "as far as I can tell, the children of these families move with the parents." that's exactly the problem.

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By Locke (registered) | Posted May 24, 2007 at 14:39:11

This is a viscous circle and an issue of demographics, aggravated by urban sprawl and made worse by a poorly designed provincial Funding Formula. Smaller families result in fewer pupils for established schools, while urban sprawl places population growth far away from existing facilities. The funding formula makes worsens this situation as it more favourably funds newer schools (with smaller square footage). Older schools are a drain on the board which closes those it can so it can build better funded schools in the suburbs which in turn encourages more sprawl. Proper planning, infill and alternative housing (ie, purpose built retirement or student housing) can help break the cycle.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 24, 2007 at 15:10:35

"This is a viscous circle"

It's a sticky situation, all right. :)

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By Locke (registered) | Posted May 26, 2007 at 10:16:02

How vicious! That'll teach me, or maybe I'll just blame a sticky keyboard... :)

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By Vic (anonymous) | Posted June 19, 2008 at 16:11:10

I'm not sure if you've taken a look inside downtown schools lately, Al, or in the past few years, but they are SERIOUSLY overcrowded. With the closure of Scott Park some time ago, for instance, a massive burst of downtown students had to cram in to already overburdened classrooms and under the tutelage of exceptionally stressed teachers.
This burden has not been lightened. We need more schools in downtown Hamilton. Not even the sprawl is decreasing the overcrowding.

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