Coquitlam district approves land sales
Residents of Burke Mountain in Coquitlam are closer to getting a local elementary school after the board of education voted to proceed with land sales and property swaps to free up cash for new buildings.
If School District 43 gets necessary approvals, as much as $30 million could be raised from the disposal of three school properties.
On Tuesday, the board decided to put up for sale 8.3 acres at the empty Coronation Park elementary school and 1.3 acres of property at Parkland elementary.
It also plans to talk to Coquitlam about nine district-owned lots at Victoria Park with the goal of securing land in Burke Mountain to get Smiling Creek elementary built and will move Moody elementary school to the site of the current Moody middle, which will also be rebuilt, and sell or redevelop the 3.16 acre elementary school property.
The decisions were made relatively swiftly despite some opposition from Port Moody Trustee Keith Watkins about the possible long-term consequences of disposing of school assets. He raised the issue numerous times but the majority of trustees agreed to proceed with the land sale plan, dubbed the Learning, Lands and Neighbourhoods initiative.
"We've been working on this for a long time and working with the city of Coquitlam and the ministry [of education]. They're as anxious as well as we are to get going," said board chair Melissa Hyndes.
The district will now seek approvals from the cities of Coquitlam and Port Moody on the projects and go to the development community for proposals for the sale of Coronation Park land, which trustees say must include a community amenity.
Watkins said the province shouldn't be let off the hook for paying for new buildings. "The mandate of the public should be building schools — public schools," he said.
But trustees were told that the province is now expecting school districts to kick in funds from the disposal of under-utilized properties for new capital projects.
There was no opposition to the land deals from members of the public at Tuesday's board meeting, which Hyndes credited to the six-week public consultation and the fact that there is pent-up demand for new schools, especially on Burke Mountain.
Board decisions made Tuesday night put SD43 in a good position to get the Burke Mountain school built within the next three to five years but Hyndes said ministry approval is required for land sales as well as for a property swap with Coquitlam.
According to SD43 superintendent Tom Grant, some of the funds generated from the asset disposal will also help the district pay for a long-term project to hook schools up to fibre optic to speed up their internet connections.
Plans are now to relocate Moody elementary school to the site of the present Moody middle school, which will be rebuilt at the back of the property. (Moody middle cost: $20 million; construction time frame: 16 to 18 months; capacity: 450 with plans for additions to house 600 to 650 students).
The district hopes to use revenue from land sales to help pay for a new, larger 450-student Moody elementary school, expected to cost $15 million, and open for students in 2018. The province doesn't currently support a replacement school even though Moody elementary needs seismic repairs and is too small for projected enrollment.
Approval was based on the "synergy" from co-locating the two schools, which could have an arts and French immersion focus. Traffic studies will be carried out to make sure cars and parking can be adequately controlled for student safety.
Once the new Moody elementary is opened, various options will be considered for its current site at St. Johns and Moody streets, including sale or redevelopment with the possibility of leasing the project to generate revenue. A multi-use development with offices below and housing above is one idea, with space for a new board office as the current one will have to be moved to make way for parking for the new Centennial secondary school.
The board of education will discuss with Coquitlam ways to use the 9-lots it owns at Victoria Park to obtain land on Burke Mountain to build the Smiling Creek school.
SD43 hopes to use revenue generated from the sale of the former Coronation Park elementary to build the new $12-million Burke Mountain school.
SD43 will also now ask Coquitlam to approve rezoning for eight lots at Parkland (on Como Lake Avenue at Poirier Street) so a land sale can proceed. The school district is also looking at putting in the services, including a lane, to improve traffic flow and safety.
At Coronation Park, SD43 will seek proposals from developers for the sale of the land, with the caveat that green space and a community amenity be included in the development.