For three years, non-profit groups have been fighting for a chance to use the old St. Pat's-Alexandra school. On October 9, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled against their case, siding instead with a company that wants to redevelop the property—leaving the groups with few options. Margaret Casey, of the North Central Community Council, spoke with The Coast about what the future holds.
Tell me how you've been dealing with the decision from last week.
We were disappointed, surprised and shocked. We feel so strongly that this is a missed opportunity for the community. We've been trying to look at options that could result in some success. We're not sure yet how we're going to move, but we've had a number of meetings amongst ourselves and have met also with our legal counsel.
What have you been talking about?
We have reviewed the decisions, so our options are to step away and say too bad, that's done, or to have some conversation with the developer [JONO Developments] to see what might be worked out. I think that's a bit unrealistic, not because they're not interested in the community, but this is business and our community needs in terms of space are large. The other option is to seek leave to the Supreme Court of Canada to see whether this case would meet the criteria. We have to think very seriously about that option before we would go ahead with it.
Why would you have to think seriously about going to the Supreme Court?
If we were to lose, we would incur all the costs. We would have to be sure we had funds to back that up before we embarked on a course like that. But there is a serious principle here: the shutting-down of options for community groups. So we have to determine whether we should pursue an appeal on those grounds. This is not a frivolous or retaliatory move—it would be a question of saying, we profoundly disagree with what has happened here, we think it's unfair and we think it's worth attention at the highest level of the judiciary.
There's a chance that if you apply to the Supreme Court, they might not take it.
The criteria are very strictly adhered to. We don't have any unrealistic expectation that this would be accepted, but that doesn't diminish in the minds of some of our group the sense that we are obligated nonetheless to make the statement.
Let's go back to JONO. If they continue to say, as I think they have said all along, they would rent 10 percent of their development to non-profit groups, would you go for that? Yes, they have said right from the beginning they would set aside 10 percent of the property for the community groups to rent. We certainly appreciate that offer. But our plans are much larger than 10 percent of that space. In anticipation of our plans, we sent out tentative invitations for expressions of interest in the space, and we were deluged with interest in the gym to the extent that it literally could have been rented 24/7. And there was a lot of interest also in the rest of the space. So space in the JONO development might work out to some degree, but we absolutely would not be able to put on the programs that we had envisioned for the larger space.
Interview conducted and condensed by Hilary Beaumont