Shawn Crossman has failed to persuade his fellow Moncton councillors to back away from a development proposal for the old Moncton high school that the public is not allowed to see.
I know for certain that there is no plan to save the theatre or the gym.– Shawn Crossman, Moncton councillor
Crossman made a motion this week asking council to withdraw support from Terra Trust/Bird Construction’s secret proposal to turn the heritage building into something that only councillors know anything about.
On Tuesday morning, after his motion was defeated 6-3, Crossman spilled a couple of details about the Terra/Bird proposal.
“I know for certain that there is no plan to save the theatre or the gym,” he said on Information Morning Moncton.
In January, council narrowly voted in favour of sending a letter of support to the province supporting the Terra/Bird project in principle. The province owns the former high school.
Council has also approved in principle the only other development proposed for the old high school – the MH Renaissance Inc. project that calls for a community centre in the heritage building, as well as moving the library into it.
No business plan yet
Earlier this year, council asked that Terra Trust/Bird Construction publicly present a business plan by April 30. The company didn’t comply.
As a result, Crossman said at a meeting Monday night, council should withdraw its support.
“Obviously, Terra/Bird has no interest in sharing their plan with the public,” he said.
His motion said the agreement between the city and the developer was broken when Terra Trust/Bird did not go public with its plan.
The six votes against the motion came from: Councillors Blair Lawrence, Charles Leger, Greg Turner, Susan Edgett, Robert McKee and Mayor Dawn Arnold.
Three votes in favour were from: Councillors Pierre Boudreau, Shawn Crossman and Bryan Butler.
Councillors Paulette Theriault and Paul Pellerin were absent.
Letter from Terra Trust/Bird
Representatives from Terra Trust/Bird Construction did not speak at the meeting but the developer submitted a letter to council, which was read by the mayor.
“We are certain that you and other members of council will understand the importance of respecting the confidentiality clauses inherent in contractual negotiations,” the letter said.
The letter said the proposal will become public if the province sells the high school to Terra Trust/Bird Construction.
“Should our proposal be accepted by the provincial government, we will most certainly come before Council in a public session to present our plans for the redevelopment of the property.”
Crossman, however, disagreed with this approach to public business.
“There’s no reason why this file needs to be financially or privately held back from the public,” he told CBC News.
Concerns about building
Crossman is a strong proponent of a second proposal made by the Renaissance group of business people to turn the building into a community centre. It’s known as MH35 and would require funding to bring the building up to code.
Almost five months after the developer made its secret proposal for the heritage building, the public is in the dark, and Crossman said his concerns about the future of the building are justified.
In its letter Terra Trust/Bird said it appreciates the “public expectations” about the auditorium and gymnasium and “we have taken this into consideration.”
Terra Trust/Bird could not be reached for a comment but in its letter said that the province is close to making a decision.
The Department of Transportation said it has, “toured the building with 25 different groups, but cannot disclose the names of prospective buyers.”
The government did not confirm when it would come to a decision.