One of the most questionable arguments made during the public engagement sessions on lot-splitting, was the question on the public questionnaire which stated that densification would “increase population levels to support the retention of neighborhood schools”.
Firstly, the City has no control over school closure decisions, this falls under the purview of the School Boards. So approval could be given for all sorts of lot-splitting and the school division can make its own decision on closure.
Secondly, the City has no control over school catchment boundaries – that too is the responsibility of the School Divisions.
Thirdly, in Manitoba we have more than one public school stream ! Lots could be split with all sorts of kids moving in, kids who attend DSFM or French immersion schools that are well outside the area where lot-splitting is being approved. A few years École Marie-Anne-Gaboury School (French immersion) was full, and Hastings (English) was half-empty. So we should have approved lot-splits that would be filled only by kids going to English school?
Fourthly, the City planning department have never put actual school enrolment into any planning report that I have seen. The only Councillor ever to school enrolment an issue in planning at City Hall, during my term was Councillor Lukes. I backed her when she refused to approve new development in Waverly West until the Province agreed to build a new school. Criticism rained down on Coun Lukes from all sorts of developers and City staff “a new school is not part of the City’s jurisdiction” etc. etc. If school enrolment isn’t a planning concern, let’s say so and be consistent. Speaking of which, City staff continue to approve further development in Sage Creek, where the only school is so full that grade 7 and 8 students are being sent off to Collège Béliveau and Windsor Park Collegiate.
If school enrolment is NOT an issue when planning for certain communities, how on earth can it be used as a justification for other types of development. In a macro sense, more housing should mean more kids, kids who might attend area schools. But on a local planning level for a small geographic area, it is incorrect to suggest that lot-splitting will help “support the retention” of an area school. This seems to be a very American argument, taken from a planning textbook. In the St. Vital area, with the popularity of French immersion schools whose catchments are broader than within a local area, and with excellent DSFM schools, as well as with a full school in Sage Creek, the enrolment of local schools is not an appropriate grounds for justifying an aggressive lot-splitting strategy.