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Central Tech’s sports field has been closed since soil was found to be contaminated last fall. In the interim, a battle over plans to allow a private company to build a dome is before the courts.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The fate of a recreational facility at a Toronto high school is in jeopardy after the school board lost its court appeal against the city.

The Toronto District School Board was looking to overturn a decision by Superior Court Justice David Corbett, who ruled in June that the board's plan to enter into a private partnership and build an artificial turf field and seasonal dome at Central Technical School was not exempt from the city's zoning regulations.

The divisional court ruled on Tuesday that the city's move was reasonable and that the $6-million sports facility, operated by Razor Management Inc. (RMI), would not qualify for the "teaching or instructional purposes" bylaw exemption.

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"The [chief building official's] finding that the bulk of the RMI use would not include an instructional component was a reasonable finding of fact, based on the information provided to the City," wrote the panel of Ontario Divisional Court judges.

The TDSB said in a statement Tuesday that it was disappointed with the decision and will be moving forward with an Ontario Municipal Board appeal. A hearing has not been scheduled.

"In the meantime, staff will be compiling a list of possible options for the Central Tech field and will present that to the [school board]. We will pro-actively examine these options as we believe the students of Central Tech need and deserve a playing field at the soonest possible opportunity," said spokesman Ryan Bird.

Central Tech's field and track have been closed since last November after soil tests. The company retained by the TDSB said exposure to the field carries a "minimal" risk that could be eliminated with a new artificial surface or new topsoil.

The divisional court's decision could have an impact on the school board's plans to build a handful of championship fields at other schools. Many local residents fear that these private facilities on public land would limit their access to school grounds before and after classes and during the summer.

The TDSB had planned to enter into a 21-year lease agreement with Razor Management to create and maintain a facility for soccer, football and other field sports at Central Tech, near Bathurst and Harbord streets. A dome would cover the sports field and track during the winter. Central Tech students would have use of the facility on weekdays during the school year. Razor would have exclusive use during the evening hours and all day on weekends and receive all revenue. Five per cent of the time was to be provided free to community groups.

A similar deal between Razor and the TDSB for a facility at Monarch Park Collegiate, near Coxwell and Danforth avenues, was given the go-ahead a few years ago.

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However, a plan for Razor to build a recreational facility at Applewood Heights Secondary School in Mississauga was cancelled this spring after the community raised concerns.

Some residents around Central Tech opposed the proposed facility, saying they were concerned about reduced community access to the field and traffic congestion.

Tim Gleason, a lawyer representing the Harbord Village Residents' Association, which was an intervenor in the case, said his clients were pleased with the decision.

"They're hopeful that the TDSB will accept the findings of the divisional court and won't take any further steps before the election [on Oct. 27]," Mr. Gleason said.

With a report from Shannon Kari

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