The City of Salmon Arm will not proceed with the purchase of the South Canoe School property.
City council made its final decision on the property acquisition during a special Nov. 29 meeting.
Council is letting its offer to purchase the property from School District #83 expire after the city’s application for non-farm use of the property was denied by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
ALC approval was a condition of the sale.
The city was considering the property at the corner of 10th Avenue SE and 60th Street SE as a possible location for its public works yard, moved from its current location adjacent to the Little Mountain Sports Complex.
In its decision, the ALC made it clear no use but agriculture would be permitted at the former school site. The city was hoping other uses in the current P-3 zoning would be acceptable, including assembly halls, community day cares and educational facilities, among others.
“I made the statement to one of the proponents who called me that I feel the ALC decision was flawed, not in the decision to not allow a public works yard, but to not address any of the other possible uses,” said Coun. Kevin Flynn.
Couns. Flynn and Tim Lavery each acknowledged the ALC’s decision diminishes the value of the property for the city, and said they would not support the purchase.
Flynn said he believes the land could have greater value to the community than as unused agricultural land.
“I see this as a lose, lose, lose all around,” commented Coun. Chad Eliason.
“It’s a loss for the school district in the revenue – obviously, they need the revenue to carry on. I see a loss for us for having a strategic piece of property, and for the community. While it provides short-term certainty for South Canoe, I don’t think it provides long-term certainty.”
Eliason said he hoped the city would buy the property and turn it into a community amenity while considering it as a possible option for the future public works yard.
Mayor Nancy Cooper said she is disappointed with the ALC’s decision because it takes away the possibility of using the property for community amenities. She also took issue with correspondence from the public which said city staff did not do their jobs properly when presenting the plan to buy the school.
Lisa Nobbs, one of the organizers of the resistance to the public works yard project, said she is pleased with the ALC’s decision.
“They could definitely see that South Canoe is a mainly agricultural area and a public works yard doesn’t fit within the theme of that neighbourhood. The only councillor who could see that is Tim Lavery. We are totally in agreement of that and are happy the Agricultural Land Commission made this decision,” said Nobbs.
The decision has the school district heading back to its realtor.
“With Salmon Arm council’s decision to not purchase the property, South Canoe Elementary will remain on the market. Parties that have expressed an interest in the property can contact the school district’s realtor for further information,” said Nicole Bittante, the school district’s secretary-treasurer.
The city and the school district had negotiated a purchase price of $475,000 for the property.