A plan to redevelop the Muskoka Regional Centre has been halted by red tape.

Gravenhurst council has decided to no longer participate in the negotiation process and allow the property to go to the open market because of too many restrictive conditions set by the province.

Maple Leaf Schools proposed building a boarding school campus along with parkland that provided housing for 750 students and created more than 300 jobs.

However, negotiations with the province have reached an impasse and the town states the province remains unwilling to resume further negotiations with the proposal.

“Council and I have agreed that the best way to move this project forward is to relinquish our authorization to negotiate any further on behalf of the joint venture Maple Leaf Schools and Knightstone Capital Management Inc.,” said Mayor Paisley Donaldson. “In doing so, our best chance in having this land redeveloped is to allow the property to go to the ‘open market’, sooner, rather than later.”

The province has declared the property a surplus and is looking to sell it.

Discussions between the province, Town of Gravenhurst and Maple Leafs Schools started back in early 2016 after the town had expressed an interest in acquiring the land through a direct sale.

 Infrastructure Ontario (IO) said the town backed out of discussions over the school project.

“The plan for the construction of a School on the property was one that was selected by the Town as their preferred option when they held a Request for Proposals (RFP),” said Ian McConachie with the ministry. “Neither IO nor the province were involved with this RFP and were not involved with the plans for a school on this property.”

The town believes the lands must be sold to a developer that will bring sustainable employment opportunities to Gravenhurst.

“This is non-negotiable,” said the mayor.

Officials say the province also wants top dollar for the land; more than the $10million Maple Leaf Schools offered.

“I think we're being ignored, we've tried several times to get to the premier's office and you can't knock that door down,” said Bob Collins with the local Chamber of Commerce.

With the property going to the ‘open market’ town officials believe there is still a chance that Maple Leaf Schools will still come forward with a refined proposal that will be mutually agreeable with the Province. 

“This would be an ideal scenario and help our community achieve the same goals we had originally set out for,” said Glen Davies, Chief Administrative Officer. “The Town has spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to move this process forward.

The province is currently evaluating potential next steps for the site.

In a press release, the town said it will continue to explore additional options in preventing the lands from becoming a single residential unit or family compound, which it argues would create no jobs or any economic, social or cultural benefit to the community.