More land needed for Burke Mountain schools
School District 43 didn’t get all the property it needed in a land deal between Wesbild and the provincial government to build an elementary and middle school on Burke Mountain, it was revealed this week.
Wesbild’s land purchase was announced with much fanfare in March, with the company and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Doug Horne noting the district would be able to buy back land needed for schools in the future at 2014 prices.
But only two thirds of the property required to build the schools has been set aside for SD43 to purchase at current prices — four acres for an elementary school and six for a middle school. The district still needs two more acres for the elementary school and three more for the middle school, trustees were told at a board of education meeting Tuesday.
That raised the ire of Port Moody Trustee Keith Watkins, who said the province should have simply set aside the entire portion for the district’s use instead of selling it and requiring the district to buy it back later.
“One third of the land is missing,” Watkins said. “The key player here is the provincial government and they hung us out to dry.”
A GOOD START
But SD43’s secretary treasurer, Mark Ferrari, expressed confidence that more land will be secured as the district is currently in talks with Wesbild, the city of Coquitlam and the province.
“It’s definitely a good start,” Ferrari said, noting that the district has a 10-year window in which to pay for the land at its 2014 assessed value.
Horne also thinks the deal is a good one even though a third of the needed land is not yet secured because the district is getting all the services paid for, and he expressed little doubt the extra land can be acquired.
“I don’t see this as an issue at all,” Horne said, noting that Wesbild wants schools to be built for students on Burke Mountain and is, therefore, motivated to make a deal for the remaining parcels of land.
Wesbild, which bought 370 acres of provincial land on Burke Mountain, including the land now set aside for the two schools, has already offered to cover all of the development costs for the schools, which include a long list of amenities, such as sidewalks, curbs, street pavement and boulevards, as well as sanitary and storm sewers, drains, pipes, gas, electric and water systems.
Horne also said the district’s requirement for school land exceeds that of the provincial government.
“It’s a very good deal for us and, if we tried to service it ourselves, it would cost a lot more than the deal that was struck,” the MLA said. “Wesbild is a very good corporate citizen and I don’t see any problem in obtaining the sites for the school as we move forward.”
But for Watkins, the district’s past troubles in acquiring land for schools in new developments was top of mind. He told his fellow trustees he’s worried the district might be on the hook for paying for the remaining parcels at market prices three or four times the value of the raw land costs.
“They, the province, could have said: Here are the two sites.”
But according to Horne, the current deal provides the district with more flexibility in determining the exact school locations based on the community’s needs.
Meanwhile, SD43 still working behind the scenes on a land assembly for the new Smiling Creek elementary school that will be the first built amongst new development on Burke Mountain.