Three existing Westside school sites will not be excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve making it more difficult for future school projects to be completed in the Central Okanagan say local school district trustees.
The commission informed the school district of its decision on Oct. 7, which rejected exemptions for building applications at Hudson Road Elementary, Shannon Lake Elementary and the Webber Road Community Centre.
The decision means any expansions or changes to the schools will now have to get both an endorsement from the City of West Kelowna and specific approvals from the commission before any projects can proceed.
Board of Education chairwoman Moira Baxter said it hasn’t been clear exactly what land is located on the ALR in West Kelowna, particularly because residential development is occurring near where the Shannon Lake School is located.
“I don’t think any of us thought that Shannon Lake was in the ALR. We built expansions. We did this and we did that. I guess we can’t do that anymore.”
According the board, it will now be impossible for the district to build a new secondary school on property it owns on Webber Road because a new school can’t have a bigger footprint than it’s predecessor. Currently, the Webber Road Community Centre is being operated on the land.
The district said there initially were multiple reasons as to why it applied for the exemptions.
- The parcels are in growing residential neighbourhoods, with no adjacent farmland
- Population growth in West Kelowna is expected to put additional pressure on the capacity of the existing facilities
- Exclusion of the sites from the ALR will avoid additional non-farm use applications to the ALC and thereby reduce the administrative and bureaucratic burden as the facilities expand.
Central Okanagan School District director of operations Mitch Van Aller said jurisdiction and authority over projects has also changed considerably since the ALR was established in the 1970s.
“Some of the things we’ve done historically at Shannon Lake Elementary were under the authority of the regional district,” said Van Aller.
“It’s not the same process as we do now, where we have to apply for a building permit with the City of West Kelowna and now have it issued (by the ALC) because it’s on the land reserve.”
The board said it is now reviewing the ALC decisions and is planning to have further discussions with the commission on next steps.