Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has passed a resolution requesting local governments implement a school site acquisition charge to new residential developments. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has passed a resolution requesting local governments implement a school site acquisition charge to new residential developments. (News Bulletin file)

New development charges will be collected to go toward building Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools

SD68 board passes resolution to be forwarded to regional district and municipalities

With student enrolment increasing, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is hoping residential developers will chip in to pay for future school space.

School trustees, at their Oct. 27 board meeting, approved a resolution that will ask some local governments within School District 68 – the District of Lantzville, City of Nanaimo and Regional District of Nanaimo – to collect a “school site acquisition charge” for new builds within the district’s area. As per the resolution, low residential density (under 21 units per hectare) would see a maximum of $1,000 per unit charged. Medium-low (21-50 units per hectare) would pay a maximum of $900 per unit and medium-high builds (more than 126 units per hectare) would see a maximum of $700 per unit. High density (more than 200 units per hectare) will see a maximum of $600 per unit.

Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, told trustees the motion is the first formalized step in instituting the charge, and is very much a development charge, similar to the way the City of Nanaimo asks for parkland.

“We have the authority to ask the city, and the city doesn’t have the authority to say no, because it’s within our statutory framework,” said Walsh.

RELATED: SD68 asks Nanaimo to collect fee from developers

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is seeing 14,775 full-time students this year and according to a consultant’s report from February, it could surpass 18,300 students by 2030-31. According to the resolution, based on information from the three local governments, more than 6,100 development units are projected in the next decade, housing an estimated 1,800 school age children.

While 50 per cent of those students are anticipated to have spaces in school facilities, some schools will need to be expanded, according to the resolution, which identifies Chase River, Bayview and Departure Bay elementary schools as possible sites. In addition, population growth in the north-end of town may necessitate two new schools, with Hammond Bay and Pleasant Valley areas listed as possible locales.

RELATED: SD68 sees 415 more students than projected

Jessica Stanley, board vice-chairperson, said she was pleased that the resolution for a school-site aquisition charge was progressing.

“This makes complete and total sense to me,” Stanley said at the meeting. “As our communities grow, our schools need to grow. When our communities grow, and our schools don’t grow, then our communities are very unhappy because their kids can’t go to local schools and that’s a big problem.”

RELATED: SD68 headed towards 26 per cent overcapacity in next 10 years

While there are schools within Town of Ladysmith and the Cowichan Vallery Regional District boundaries, charges won’t be requested of them.

“Given the size of our district and the multitude of municipalities and regional districts, we intend to treat [SD68] for the purposes of the [changes] as a north and south area,” Walsh said in an e-mail. “So we have not ruled out a charge in the south, e.g. CVRD and Ladysmith, but there is still a little work to do on future growth with the area.”

The school district is not willing to delay charges in the north due to the notable growth that is projected over the next 10 years, he said.

The draft will now be forwarded to the local governments for a 60-day period during which stakeholders can provide feedback.

“Once that time is passed … they may ask for more information, or they may ask if they have the ability to actually say ‘no, we disagree,’ and then there’s a mediation process that’s open,” said Walsh. “I don’t actually anticipate that happening in the circumstances. I don’t think the numbers are up for debate.”

Following that, a bylaw will go before the school board.

Trustee Greg Keller abstained from voting as he is an RDN employee. All other trustees voted in favour.

READ ALSO: RDN works on long-term lease for South Wellington centre

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