Private school appeals Richmond council's rejection of expansion into ALR

Richmond city council’s decision to not allow a private school to build a new school on the Highway to Heaven is being challenged by the proponent.

Mark Canofari, a lawyer representing Pythagoras Academy, has sent the city a letter stating they intend to “seek a re-consideration of the denial of the rezoning application.”

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Canofari, who is with Boughton Law Corporation, also asked the city to confirm whether the policy not allowing non-religious institutions on the Highway to Heaven is an official city policy.

City council voted in late November 5-4 to deny an application by the private school for non-farm use on their property at 9500 No. 5 Rd., with several councillors arguing the Highway to Heaven strip – located in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) - is for only religious-affiliated institutions.

Pythagoras Academy, currently on Odlin Crescent in central Richmond, was proposing to develop the former Mylora Golf Course with a 10-acre campus for the school, leaving the back part of the property, 20 acres, for organic farming.

Anne Yu, one of the founders of the school and a parent, said they have been trying since 2013 to find a new location for their school. She added there should be diverse options for parents in Richmond, and many who choose private school over public school for their children drive them to schools in other communities.  

Coun. Harold Steves said at the November council meeting that, when the Highway to Heaven was set up, its original intention was for religious institutions.  

Couns. Steves, Carol Day, Kelly Greene, Bill McNulty and Michael Wolfe voted against the application.

Canofari stated in the letter that the private school is “appealing” the decision.

According to the city, there are two options available to an applicant whose application has been turned down by council: to go to court or submit a new application.

Council was also discussing a policy in January to disallow any future schools on the Highway to Heaven, a strip along No. 5 Road in the Agricultural Land Reserve where several religious institutions and religious schools have been built with the understanding that the back two-thirds of the property will be farmed. There are currently four religious schools on the strip.

Currently the assembly zoning in Richmond – which religious institutions on No. 5 Road are zoned as – allows “education” as a permitted use.

The No. 5 Road Backlands Policy states the “frontlands” of these properties – the areas fronting No. 5 Road - can be used for “community institutional” uses which include “religious, educational or cultural activities.”

Development applications on the Highway to Heaven, like all applications in the ALR, need city and Agricultural Land Commission approval.

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