New Amherst School – Re-Zoning up for Approval

The gallery at the Committee of the Whole Council meeting on Monday was full with some people standing.  They were there to express their concern about the planned school in New Amherst and, if their efforts failed, to show concern about the process used to come to a decision on the necessary re-zoning.  The School will be built by the third school board with schools in Cobourg: Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenier – this is a French Language School and not French immersion.  Students must be fluent in French. There was a public meeting in March that got heated (see link below) so there was no surprise when the issue came to Council.  To counter the expected opposition, both the developer and School Board representative made presentations.

As explained at the public meeting, the school will be a single story building on land currently vacant at the north-west corner of New Amherst Boulevard and Fred Adams Street.  The Official Plan permits this land usage but a rezoning is required – as a result, Gil Brocanier, Brian Darling and John Henderson expressed concern that if permission were denied, the Town would be faced with an expensive OMB hearing that they would be sure to lose.

Ontario School Boards

As explained on the Ontario Ministry of Education Web site,“four school systems are publicly funded: the French public system, the French Catholic system, the English public system and the English Catholic system”.  There are four French language public school boards and eight French language Catholic school boards of which Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir is one (previously Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud) and based in Toronto. Go here for a list of their schools. There are 450 French-language schools in Ontario (Public and Catholic) out of 4000 elementary schools and 850 secondary schools.

Glenn Scheels
Glenn Scheels

Currently, some of the potential French speaking students for the new Cobourg school go to the nearest school in Peterborough by bus and some go to St. Michael’s French immersion. Although capacity will be 250, it is not expected to be reached for maybe 25 years.

But the discussion was not about that.  The applicant, Glenn Scheels of GSP Group, said that it was about:

  • Process – was the required process followed and even if it was, maybe an information meeting should be held earlier
  • Traffic – will traffic be adversely affected?  His co-presenter, Julia Salvini of Salvini consulting said that traffic from the school would be less than if the land were to be used for housing similar to the existing nearby development. 
  • Safety – All pickup and drop-offs by busses and individuals for both the school and day-care would be on the property and not on the streets.
  • The Type of Community – previously, the developer had said that there was no claim that New Amherst was a retirement community but Dennis Nabieszko (representing residents) said that salespeople had said that it was.
Andre Balais
Andre Balais

The original development planned for a Public Elementary school in a different location but the school board declared it surplus and residents were led to believe that no school would therefore be built.  Both Director of Planning Glenn McGlashon and the developer felt that the location was a good one since it’s on a collector road.

André Balais, Director of Education for the school board said that the school brought amenities to the community such as day care, meeting rooms, a gymnasium and playing fields.  The idea of day-care drew a lot of discussion – it would be in French and have a capacity of 15 toddlers and 24 pre-school spots.

Suzanne Séguin disputed that there are enough Northumberland French speakers of school age and quoted the Census numbers for all ages – but André said he deferred to his planning department and Debra McCarthy said that from her experience the numbers used by the Ministry would be correct.

Residents’ Concerns

Dennis Nabieszko spoke on behalf of residents.  He said he wanted to take the emotion out of it.  He said that the vast majority of residents were against the idea and that:

“…. almost all in favour were from either executives and managers of the New Amherst developer, the New Amherst Homes builder, their suppliers and sub-contractors, employees, and the school board.”

Dennis Nabieszko
Dennis Nabieszko

Gil Brocanier later conceded that a re-zoning decision should not be based on job creation.

Dennis said that “New Amherst alleges they have never marketed this neighbourhood as an adult lifestyle and retirement community. This is misleading and simply not true.”  He then made the observation that there are no public playgrounds in the community.

He said:

New Amherst is claiming how important a school is to this community, but they did not think so four years ago when they asked that the designated land for a school be rezoned to residential. That was opportunistic and this request for rezoning is also opportunistic. For the last four years, people moved into the neighbourhood with no expectation of a school being built on this site, or the previously designated site.

They have misled residents and are now misleading Council.

He pointed out that a school for French speaking students does not meet local needs because students will be mostly bussed in.  He disagreed with Glenn McGlashon and said that the proposal does not in fact comply with Cobourg’s Official Plan.  See Dennis’s full presentation in the Links below.

Glenn McGlashon said that it’s not the Town’s role to question the Ministry of Education in planning schools but he did say that the school could take 20-25 years to reach capacity and in that time demographics in the neighbourhood could change. He said that 6 other sites in Cobourg were investigated and none were suitable. Glenn also said that the Notification process followed the Planning Act, the Official plan and Council requirements and although requirements were exceeded (by mail-outs), they could be improved.

Separately, Aaron Burchat moved a motion (that was approved) to ask staff to prepare a policy that provided better engagement of the public.

Debra McCarthy asked why do we let residents think they can ask council do something against legislation?

The issue was put to a recorded vote:

  Vote Extra Comments
Forrest Rowden No  
Debra McCarthy Yes  
John Henderson Yes We would have to argue against our own planners.
Brian Darling Yes We need to protect against litigation we can’t win
Aaron Burchat Yes  
Suzanne Séguin No Public should have been involved earlier – people should be listened to
Gil Brocanier Yes We need to protect against litigation we can’t win

So the re-zoning was approved 5 – 2.  This needs to be confirmed at the regular council meeting next Monday. Note on April 30.  Regular Council approved the re-zoning with the same vote split.


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29 April 2018 6:32 am

There is no local demographic to support this school; the Amherst residents, who are mainly older and were duped into believing they were moving into a relatively quiet development, don’t want it because of the construction, the noise, and the pollution; and we’re already closing schools in Cobourg which could be used for this purpose, so it sounds like the perfect project for Cobourg. If you have a bookstore in Quebec that sells English books you can’t even display an “English Books” sign in your window. It must read, “Livres d’Anglais”. But, when you call VIA rail in Ontario, you have to suffer through French before English. So what’s going on? No one living in Ontario needs to be taught mathematics or history in French any more than they need to be taught those subjects in Welsh or Swahili. The only purpose of such a school is to educate, on the cheap, bourgeois children, who live outside of Cobourg, to a higher level of French than their parents think they can get in schools that already offer French immersion in the hopes that they can be more competitive in the future. It’s not for French kids. They would only be at a disadvantage to be schooled in French if they speak it at home and intend to attend university in Ontario or any other English-speaking province, America, the UK etc. So the enduring question, the only question anyone ever needs to ask is: Cui bono? And, the people who definitely do not benefit from this project are the people of Cobourg. I think there are a lot of taxpayers in Cobourg who would have preferred that the Council of this town voted a resounding “No!” to re-zoning instead of instantly giving in to this absurd scheme. At least the Council… Read more »

25 April 2018 3:14 pm

What a spineless decision for Broc, Darling and Henderson to make – we probably won’t win the fight so why fight at all. As Homer Simpson once said “you tried and failed…the lesson is never try.”

How about you three do what is right by listening to and representing your constituents.

Mrs. Anonymous
25 April 2018 11:27 am

With a provincial election looming, perhaps this would be a good time to ask our local candidates if they support building this new school to serve a near non existent demographic in Northumberland?

Maybe we lose the battle on zoning but win the war by making enough noise such that this school doesn’t get built.

Walter L. Luedtke
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
25 April 2018 10:00 pm

What war? We are having a war in Cobourg?

Walter L. Luedtke
25 April 2018 11:26 am

Helas! Deju Vu Encore Une Fois!
The operative sentence in the John’s article is this: “The Official Plan permits this land usage but a rezoning is required – as a result, Gil Brocanier, Brian Darling and John Henderson expressed concern that if permission were denied, the Town would be faced with an expensive OMB hearing that they would be sure to lose.”
That’s where the meat is.
I am surprised that Mr. Nabiesko, a member of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association inner circle, would want to take the chance of involving the Town in an OMB fight which would cost the taxpayer a bundle.
A personal observation: I taught at ENSS in Brighton for many years. Upward of 80% of the student body is bused in from a large catchment area which includes Colborne, Castleton. Wooler and the outskirts of Trenton. There is no animosity between between the residents of Brighton, which include many Seniors, and the school. Au contraire, ENSS is an asset for Brighton.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
25 April 2018 3:05 pm

I am surprised that Mr. Nabiesko, a member of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association inner circle, would want to take the chance of involving the Town in an OMB fight which would cost the taxpayer a bundle.”

The CTA website claims that they are about 1. Fiscal responsibility, 2. Clearing the roadblocks and red tape that stand in the way of economic growth and being able to operate a successful business in Town, 3. Getting the best bang for our buck, 4. About building prosperity.

It is curious that they opposed a business willing to bear all the risk and pay Cobourg ten percent of their gross revenue for the privilege of installing their water playground. This free enterprise brings many wins for Cobourg. More local students will be hired for the summer to defray some of their college/university expenses. These students will be indulging in rigorous exercise building a strong healthy body along the day. And establishing their social roots in their home town before embarking off into the world.

The 10 percent earned by the town could go towards constructing another washroom/change room at the east end of the park to alleviate the long line-ups. It could go towards hiring extra temp students for clean-up on the three long weekends. And the CTA was opposed to all that, and for spurious reasons.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 4:58 pm

Where did you read that the CTA was opposed to the water-park? I don’t think they offered an opinion about the viability of the park, but rather the way the whole issue was brought forward rather quickly and before the waterfront plan was made public.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
25 April 2018 6:16 pm

You mislead yourself. Przt!

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 6:34 pm

Maybe so o mighty one.
Steer me back to the straight and narrow and tell me
“Where did you read that the CTA was opposed to the water-park?”

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Frenchy
25 April 2018 8:32 pm

Here you go Frenchie. You can hear the CTA reps. griping about the waterpark right here in this podcast from 89.7 radio. I heard parts of it when they appeared last week and they certainly were not in favour of it.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
25 April 2018 9:45 pm

Exactly Deborah.
Frenchy is just reciting the SPIN that CTA put on the issue after the playground was approved.

Reply to  Deborah OConnor
25 April 2018 10:39 pm

I heard the whole thing.
How many times in that broadcast did they say they weren’t opposed to it in the parts you listened to? Maybe you should have taken the time to listen to all of it.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 9:42 pm

I believe that town staff are selling out our most beautiful natural asset – our Cobourg Beach – for less than $30,000.

That’s opposition.

And they oppose it because they believe “Most of the citizens of Cobourg have indicated that they do not want more visitors coming to the beach.” I know that because CTA put it in bold print to emphasize it, then underlined it, to double emphasize it. The fact is that most of the citizens of Cobourg want more tourists.

Anyway, the water playground is coming whether you or the CTA like it or not, and a lot of Cobourg and area families are going to have a lot FUN, and Cobourg will earn enough money to pay more students who will be able to offset their college expenses. That’s what the CTA is against. How ’bout you? Are you opposed to the water playground?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 10:37 pm

Not at all. I don’t care one way or the other that we are going ahead. Not against. Not for. Doesn’t matter to me.

John Draper
Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 10:57 pm

Enough about the CTA – this Post was not about them – Dennis made it clear that he was speaking as a resident and not representing anything else.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
25 April 2018 5:47 pm

Wallly…get on topic…or have you lost it?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
25 April 2018 6:17 pm

Did you just arrogantly appoint yourself as the moderator? Przt!

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
26 April 2018 11:11 am

Is there really an OMB anymore? I thought as of Jan 2018 a Tribunal was the route for appeals and importantly its mandate appears to be heavily weighted toward the Community — Unlike our Town Staff and Councilors.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  gerinator
26 April 2018 12:42 pm
John Draper
Reply to  Bill Thompson
26 April 2018 12:47 pm

The change of name and mandate was covered briefly on this blog post here. In summary: “the LPAT will now answer a simple “yes or no” legal test — does the proposal follow the city’s official planning rules? Previously it ruled on what it believed to be the “best” planning outcome.” So for the purposes of the School proposal, it would have the same result.

Bill Thompson
25 April 2018 9:39 am

It appears that rezoning requirements are becoming more prevalent in developer’s plans in Cobourg ever since the Legion development approval took place in spite of much public objection.
Once the barn door is left open ….as the saying goes.
The initial public fear of the town council’s decision making process setting a precedence for approval in developer’s interests vice those of the public ,appears to have been well founded.
With the latest one (College Street) also being approved by the town ,and now this approval also.
Transparency ,public awareness and listening to the public seems to becoming less in the process (although denied ) but again clearly illustrated just recently by the latest Waterpark decision.


25 April 2018 8:55 am

When it comes to education, I believe there should be only one school board and system…forget about the different empire builders. Lets educate children with good dedicated teachers and forget about the “French” and “Catholic” school systems…One System For All.

Let there be a melting pot for our children…you can still teach the French language in any school and leave the religion to the various religious orders in this country.

As for the school at question…250 students in 25 years & lots of busing…what a financial joke to Ontario taxpayers.

Old Sailor
Reply to  cornbread
25 April 2018 10:08 am

I recall a former Ontario deputy minister of finance telling me that the best step the province could take to balance its budget would be to have just one school board. Would save multi billions of dollars annually. If we don’t do that Wynn or her successor may offer to pay for religious schools next just to get more votes. More billions of dollars wasted.

Reply to  cornbread
25 April 2018 5:59 pm

Interesting enough where I grew up we had both systems. We were the size of Cobourg. We were French yes. Cobourg has about 4,000 citizens francophone. Culture and languages are not separated usually.

Reply to  Storm
26 April 2018 3:45 pm

Cobourg has about 4,000 citizens francophone.

According to StatsCan ( of Cobourg’s 18,735 residents, 17,205 (91.8%) have knowledge of only English and zero (that is NONE) have knowledge of only French. Only 280 Cobourg residents claim that their first language was French.

What is the source of your information?