School properties make for some tricky decision making

It was a particularly tension-filled Town of Lake Cowichan Advisory Planning Commission meeting, Thursday, July 28, with the Lake Cowichan Ratepayers’ Association and the private owners of the J.H. Boyd property in attendance as delegates, both official and unofficial.

  • Aug. 2, 2011 7:00 p.m.

As soon as parks and institutional land is mentioned, the community listens up.

It was a particularly tension-filled Town of Lake Cowichan Advisory Planning Commission meeting, Thursday, July 28, with the Lake Cowichan Ratepayers’ Association and the private owners of the J.H. Boyd property in attendance as delegates, both official and unofficial.

Addressing the commission on behalf of the Ratepayers’ Association, Rod Peters reiterated previous statements made to council the week previous, about the importance of keeping existing school sites as-is, and forgetting the development permit area designation.

“We want it to stay P-1. We don’t want development permit area. The community fought hard to keep it P-1,” he said.

“I can’t see why we can’t leave them as they are, and keep them at P-1, consistent with how they’ve been,” commission member Hazel Beech said. “That’s what the majority of the people want.”

For the Palsson Elementary School site in particular, the commission decided to drop the development permit area land use designation and have it remain an institutional land use designation, as well as remain zoned as P-1.

“The school board for District 79 will be delighted,” trustee Diana Gunderson, who was sitting in the audience, said.

The J.H. Boyd site

The P-1 zoned J.H. Boyd property is another item altogether.

Unlike the Palsson Elementary School site, which includes a currently functioning school, the J.H. Boyd site has already been sold to an independent developer who has no interests in building an education facility.

Appearing as an unofficial delegation, J.H. Boyd property owner John Kelly spoke to the issue.

“I do not believe the Ratepayers speak for the vast majority of the public,” Kelly said, citing Peters’ comments that the public doesn’t want Kelly’s development to go forth.

“It is never going to be a school under any circumstances… This property could sit the way it’s been sitting for the next 15 years, or something else could happen.”

Under a development permit area, more flexibility is awarded than the cut and dry zoning, of which the J.H. Boyd site is P-1.

Also under the development permit area can be various specific guidelines, such as the protection of the natural environment, revitalization goals, among other stipulations.

The property would remain zoned as P-1.

The property owner would have to submit a proposal to council before being able to go forth.

“Nobody’s going to buy it from us. It’s not going to be a school. It does nobody any good,” Kelly said, of the Ratepayers’ determination to shut down his plans.

The latest plan, which was submitted to council in October of last year, includes 28 lots, and two acres for the Lake Cowichan Seniors Society.

“We want to see something happen,” commission member Pat Weaver said.

“It’s a fire hazard. It’s a terrific hangout for kids that shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. We can’t just let it sit there derelict.”

With the commission unable to make a decision without more time to think, the J.H. Boyd property discussions were tabled until their Thursday, August 18 meeting, to be held at 10 a.m. at the town’s Municipal Hall.

During this time, they’ll decide what development permit area, if any, will blanket the property, or whether it should be left simply as an institutional land use designation and zoned P-1, as was decided to do with the Palsson Elementary School property.

P-1 zoning change

After a brief discussion, the commission decided that P-1 zoning in town should remain pretty well as they decided it should in December of last year.

Permitted uses include: church, school; civic use, including transportation station; park, playground, sports field; post office; municipal campground, public recreation use; public utility, public storage and works yard; affordable seniors care facility, or special needs facility.

The main difference between this latest draft and the latest 2009 amendment is the re-wording of one item, which previously read “affordable seniors, rental and special needs housing,” to eliminate rental housing, which the commission felt was too broad and residential in its scope.

Other issues touched upon

• As per fire department restrictions, it was decided that buildings should be no more than 10.5 metres tall, to ensure the town can adequately protect them.

• With the town’s elected officials handed the duty of making a decision on urban agriculture – particularly backyard chickens – commission chair Chris Rolls is happy.

“We’d gone round and round to find a happy medium, but we couldn’t… We’re done,” she said.

As per council’s decision earlier in the week, the issue is not going to a referendum question (see Page 5 for the report on council).

Instead, the town’s elected officials have opted to make a decision at a future meeting.

The Town of Lake Cowichan’s Advisory Planning Commission is just that; an advisory body to the town’s elected officials, mandated with providing a public forum regarding the town’s planning for the future.

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