A request by the school district to rezone the former J.L. Jackson school site for commercial use was turned down by city council – for a second time.
School District #83 wished to rezone the site from P3 Institutional to C2 Town Centre Commercial. At a public hearing held Monday night at North Canoe Hall, school board president Bobbi Johnson told council the majority of the property is surplus to the school district and is no longer needed. She said the board believes a C2 designation would promote a wide variety of development options for the future.
A city staff memorandum to council notes the school district has applied to subdivide the property from two lots to four, and plans to construct a new school district office on one of the lots. The same memo also delves into the history of the property, going back to 2006 when a retailer sought to rezone three-quarters of the property to C7 Shopping Centre Commercial for a new grocery store. Substantial public outcry at a related public hearing convinced council to turn down the application. Subsequently, a city committee was formed to review the site and come up with development guidelines which, in 2009 became part of the city’s official community plan. These guidelines received significant public input and were driven by smart growth principles for development.
Monday night, after the hearing, Coun. Chad Eliason recalled the well-attended public hearing where he said person after person commented on how it was too important a piece of taxpayers’ property for the public not to have input on how it’s developed. He went on to say the school district doesn’t need to rezone the entire property – that doing so would go against what the community asked for back in 2006.
“I think we can work together with the school district to create variances and create a financially suitable way for them to build a new school district office to make that happen,” said Eliason. “But I think the community wants and deserves a chance to have input and comments on this property before it gets rezoned again.”
During the hearing, this was expressed by the only other person to speak, Bill Remphrey. Representing CASSSA (Community Association for a Strong and Sustainable Salmon Arm), Remphrey agreed the development guidelines may be too prohibitive in light of current economic conditions, but argued it should still be possible to come up with revisions that maintain the spirit of those guidelines.
“To avoid the confrontations that took place relevant to the initial development proposal in 2006, we feel it would be prudent for the school board to give the many people who have shown they care an opportunity to learn where they stand on planning,” said Remphrey.
Coun. Marg Kentel agreed that economic conditions aren’t what they were in 2006, saying this is a reason to support the rezoning. In questioning the planning department, Kentel was told the guidelines remain part of the OCP and could therefore still be used to guide development.
“I respect the work that was done, but I do know too that the city centre guidelines will have lots of teeth to them, so if anything comes to council that is not appropriate, it can very readily be addressed,” she said.
Mayor Nancy Cooper also supported the rezoning. Couns. Denise Reimer and Debbie Cannon, however, sided with Eliason.
“For me to agree to rezone all of that property to C2 just doesn’t sit well,” said Cannon. “I want to see a developer, a plan come to council and then take it from there, because I want to know what the thought process is and what’s possibly going to go there.”
Couns. Alan Harrison and Ken Jamieson did not participate due to a conflict of interest as employees of the school district.