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No Porter Street land sale — Coquitlam district

Porter Street elementary school Parent Advisory Council chairperson Katherine Murray said she is relieved the Coquitlam district won
Porter Street elementary school Parent Advisory Council chairperson Katherine Murray said she is relieved the Coquitlam district won't be selling land at her school.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/TRI-CITYNEWS

Parents of students attending Coquitlam's Porter Street elementary are relieved the School District 43 board of education won't be selling land at their school.

But even though they got what they wanted, they had a few choice words for trustees who voted to nix the plan to sell school property to create nine lots.

"How did it ever become a formal proposal?" parent John Murphy asked during a public question period at Tuesday's board meeting. He said parents spent hundreds of hours researching and fighting the proposal, and couldn't figure out why their school was one of two under consideration for land sale. (The other is Parkland.)

Parents who spoke at the meeting also raised issues of lack of transparency in the process and the stress caused parents who were first alerted about the plan when a sign went up at the school.

Porter Street parent advisory council chair Katherine Murray told the board parents are concerned about lack of due process, safety issues, reduction in playing fields and land use. "The proposal to sell this land has outraged the vast majority of the Porter community," she said.

After trustees agreed the district shouldn't proceed with the plans, Murray expressed relief but said parents were exhausted after weeks of trying to find out why the board had chosen the school for a possible land sale and then making efforts to get trustees to change their minds.

After fielding questions at well-attended public meetings on the Porter land sale, trustees decided to vote that night to halt proceedings, calling their decision a "foregone conclusion."

"Likely no new information would come forward" if trustees waited the usual two weeks to hold a vote, said Anmore/Belcarra trustee Holly Butterfield. But a proposal to hive off a portion of Parkland elementary school property on Como Lake Avenue for eight lots will still be voted on Nov. 6.

The only trustee to vote against not proceeding at Porter was Port Coquitlam's John Keryluk, who didn't explain the reasons for his decision.

Staff reasons for not proceeding with selling a piece of Porter land for nine lots included concerns about problems with parking and student drop-off, access and the expense of relocating grass fields. But the district hasn't squelched entirely plans for selling surplus assets to raise funds for replacement schools and other projects in other parts of the city.

According to reports presented at the meeting, Porter Street and Parkland elementary school properties exceed provincial education ministry guidelines, which means the district is responsible for maintaining community amenities not specifically used by the school and doesn't get reimbursed for it. (According to ministry guidelines, Porter is 8.1 acres while the ministry recommendation is 6.7 acres for the size of school, while Parkland is 9.23 acres.)

The district would like to use the proceeds from land sales to supplement capital costs for new and replacement schools because its needs outweigh provincial funding. Selling off Parkland for eight lots, for example, could generate $3 million to $5 million for school capital needs, the report notes.

But at least one person doesn't think the idea of selling school land assets is a good idea. Port Moody-Coquitlam MLA Joe Trasolini said the district could run out of assets and still not have enough money to fund new schools.

"I think it's very shortsighted," said Trasolini who attended Tuesday's meeting.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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