Commercial zoning OK’d for former Jackson school site

Council members voted to support a request to rezone two lots from institutional to commercial.

City council has approved a rezoning that will facilitate the sale of a chunk of the former JL Jackson school site for commercial use, but it’s a decision that not everyone is applauding.

At their Oct. 14 meeting, council members present voted unanimously to support a request from the school district to amend the official community plan designation for two lots on the site as well as rezone them from institutional to commercial.

The OCP amendment removed the stipulation “to follow the Old JL Jackson School Site Development Guidelines” from 2009 which outlined a preferred development concept.

Couns. Alan Harrison and Ken Jamieson stepped out due to potential conflicts of interest.

The property includes four lots: 1 – the site of the new school district office; 2 – the downtown activity centre, or DAC; 3 –  a lot the city purchased that stretches from the DAC along Fifth Avenue SW to  Third Street SW and to the north; and 4 – bordered on two sides by First Avenue SW and Third Street SW, meeting lot 3 to the south.

The zoning changes  applied to lots 2 and 4.

Bobbi Johnson, school board chair, spoke in favour, noting the property is designated town centre in the OCP, so institutional zoning is inconsistent with that. She also said the school district has been required by the city to upgrade servicing to city centre standards in keeping with the city’s vision.

“We believe it is important for mayor and council to support the vision…”

She said Lot 2 is surplus to the school district’s needs and will be disposed of in the future.

Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, later explained to the Observer that an agreement struck between the city and school district means the school district will be reimbursed for its cash contribution for upgrading off-site servicing for Lot 1, where the new school district office is going.

He said the city will pay for upgrading frontage for all the lots at a value of $1 million.

The $1 million is part of the $1.5 million price tag for Lot 3, to which the city contributed another $500,000 cash.

Kevin Harrison, executive director of the Shuswap Youth Soccer Association, spoke against the rezoning of Lot 4 to commercial, noting that having one location is vital to soccer programming.

He said more than 1,100 children registered in 2014, and SYSA had nine mini-fields on the property, allowing 14 teams to practice at one time.

He said the location means multi-child parents can pick up and drop off their children at the same locale, and it also facilitates car-pooling, all of which can make the difference between kids playing or not. He said one location also reduces equipment and staffing needs.

After the meeting, he added that if quality fields like the current  and proposed ones at Blackburn Park are used for youth practice, the 18 adult teams would struggle to find fields, and overuse would lead to the deterioration of the quality fields.

Coun. Debbie Cannon suggested bringing more school fields online, while Coun. Chad Eliason enquired about how soon the new championship soccer field at Blackburn will be ready. He also asked about immediate plans for the former JL Jackson site. Staff said the new Blackburn field will be ready in 2016.

Regarding the former Jackson fields, staff said it’s expected the transportation ministry will request a no-build covenant until a traffic study is done. The fields would likely be usable next summer, unless Lot 4 is sold by then.

Coun. Denise Reimer asked about Lot 2 where the DAC is.

City administrator Carl Bannister said the agreement with the school district stipulates the city will be informed when it’s coming up for sale and will have a chance to purchase.

Bannister also noted the former Jackson fields are not city fields.

“They’ve been used for youth soccer by the goodwill of the school district who has leased them to the city for one dollar.”

Approval

Jake Jacobson, president of the Shuswap Society for the Arts and Culture, earlier presented a letter to council, stating the society, after looking at 17 sites over seven years for a performing arts centre, has completed a review of the city’s Lot 3.

“It will be a good fit for the new facility and will still have ample room left over for a green space and other civic activities.”

The society is now working on a business plan for the project.

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