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Land sale could net School District No. 42 millions

A currently unused parcel of land owned by the Maple Ridge Pitt-Meadows School District could net the local district millions if sold, and potentially help fund the construction of a new elementary school in Albion.

The 3.8-hectare site is located along Bonson Road, near the corner of Airport Way, and was bought by school district in 2001 to be the future site of a middle school.

More than 10 years later, the school isn’t needed, and the lot sits vacant.

The district’s parcel of land is located next to a 4.65-hectare parcel of land sold by the City of Pitt Meadows last month to the Onni development group for $12.25 million.

That site is designated for residential development in the city’s official community plan and will be developed for medium density housing similar in feel to nearby Osprey Village.

While the district’s property is currently zoned for institutional use, City of Pitt Meadows staff have said in the past it would be open to rezoning the land for residential development.

Secretary treasurer Flavia Coughlan said the school district currently has no plans to sell the lot.

However, that possibility will be explored under the district’s recently-launched facility and property review.

The review will determine the future uses for every single school, facility, and property owned by the school district, and will likely take up to a year to complete.

“It’s a major undertaking,” said Coughlan of the review.

Should the review conclude the lot should be sold, the district would still need approval from the provincial Ministry of Education, which paid for the acquisition of the land.

“For years the provincial government had the stance where they didn’t want school districts to dispose of properties, so they could save them for future use,” said Coughlan. “But we’ve heard property disposal may be back on their radar.”

Coughlan said she had no idea how long it would take to get ministerial approval to sell the site, should the district decide to do so.

Coughlan said the facilities review will look at the future need for a school in the area, adding that selling the property could create problems for the school district down the road.

“We don’t have the kids in that area right now, but with the Onni development, that might change,” she said.

Given the district’s parcel of land would likely be used for residential development if sold, its sale would result in even more school-aged kids coming into the neighbourhood, and more potential need for an elementary school there.

In 2004, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District sold off Thornhill Primary School for $520,000 after closing the school and transferring its 51 students to Albion elementary in 2002.

Now Albion is the district’s most over-crowded school, and reopening Thornhill is one option the district no longer has.

However, money made from the sale of the Pitt Meadows property could potentially be used to fund a new elementary school in Albion.

If sold, the proceeds of the sale would be put into a reserve that the district will be allowed to access with ministerial approval.

Coughlan said such one-time funding would be well-suited to help fund a major capital project, such as the construction of a new school in Albion.

“But that’s all very hypothetical,” she said.

The new elementary school, the site for which the district has already purchased, would likely cost upwards of $17 million, Coughlan said, so the sale of the Pitt Meadows property likely wouldn’t cover all the costs.

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