Despite a viewing gallery full of residents opposed to the move, Salmon Arm city council voted to send an application for non-farm use of the old South Canoe school property to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The city plans is to purchase the unused school and its accompanying five acres of land from School District #83 and retain it as a possible option for the relocation of the city’s public works yard.
The city settled on a price of $475,000 with the school district in early August, but the sale is contingent on non-farm use being granted by the ALC.
Since the terms of the sale of the property were made public, numerous South Canoe residents have come together to oppose the sale.
Council received 38 pieces of correspondence on the subject of the sale.
“I take exception to a number of the emails that suggest collusion and inappropriate staff behaviour. First of all they border on libel and slander and nobody benefits from that. I have the utmost confidence that when staff brought this to us they did so because they thought it was a good purchase,” said Coun. Kevin Flynn.
Over 75 people attended the afternoon session of city council’s Sept. 12 meeting, many of them carrying signs or wearing badges reading “no public works yard in South Canoe.”
Couns. Alan Harrison and Ken Jamieson declared a conflict of interest on the matter of the rezoning and sale because they are school district employees and so did not participate in the discussion or vote. Although Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond participated in previous meetings on the subject of the South Canoe property, this time she declared a conflict of interest because her company, Mediability Corporate Communications, has recently undertaken a project for the school district.
Before city council voted to proceed with the ALC application, they heard a presentation from representatives of the South Canoe community Adam Muddiman and Len Lazzarotto.
Muddiman made arguments against some of the city’s stated reasons for wanting to purchase the property for the purpose of relocating the public works yard including the longevity of the nearby gravel pit adjacent to Klahani Park. Muddiman also suggested the smaller property at South Canoe school would make it difficult for the public works yard to operate as it does at its current location near Little Mountain Park and that a more industrial setting would be better fit for the new works yard.
Lazzarotto addressed the harm a public works yard might to the neighbourhood character of South Canoe.
The residents of South Canoe felt broadsided by lack of consultation leading up to the city’s decision to purchase the land, he said.
“The South Canoe School has been social focus of the community for 50 years,” Lazzarotto said, adding that although the school is no longer used, it’s field and parking lot provide important recreation and meeting areas for the community.
In their discussion on whether to proceed with the application council emphasized any relocation of the works yard will be years in the future, with other property options considered and the public consulted beforehand.
Flynn said although he supported the South Canoe school property as an option for relocating the public works yard, he recognized the effects that increased traffic might have on the community and the need to preserve valuable agricultural soils.
“At the end of the day I think the purchase of this property is a very good opportunity for the community.”
Council voted to pass the application along to the ALC, but amended the application to request non-farm use for not only a potential public works yard but also for all the other uses allowed under the site’s current Institutional zoning.
Permitted uses for the property include: An assembly hall, a church, an educational or cultural facility, government offices or a recycling collection site amongst others.
Non-farm use for an indoor or outdoor recreational facility will also be included in the application, but re-zoning would be required for recreational use.
Coun. Tim Lavery stated he thinks the area should be preserved for agricultural purposes and he would not support any application to the ALC where a public works yard is a possibility.
Lavery voted against the application while Mayor Nancy Cooper and the other councillors supported it.