Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustees have approved a motion that advances plans for conversion of an old south-end school to a community centre.
At a School District 68 board meeting Sept. 29, trustees approved a motion that will see the school district applying to the B.C. Ministry of Education for approval of a 25-year lease with the Regional District of Nanaimo for the old South Wellington Elementary School which shuttered in 2013. SD68 gave preliminary lease agreement approval last June.
Should Jennifer Whiteside, B.C. education minister, give approval, the motion will “come back to the board for an actual bylaw for the disposition,” according to Mark Walsh, SD68 secretary-treasurer.
“How long that process takes with the ministry, we’re not quite sure,” Walsh told trustees. “They know it is coming, so it shouldn’t be very controversial in our estimation.”
The plan is also contingent on RDN approval and Tom Osborne, RDN general manager of recreation and parks, told the News Bulletin the regional district must seek feedback of its own in the form of an alternate approval process, as it is a long-term lease. A report is set to go before the RDN board sometime this fall, he said.
Osborne estimated the alternate approval process will begin either later this year or early in 2022.
According to an SD68 staff report, feedback was sought before and after the tentative agreement was reached. Both times, respondents spoke “overwhelmingly” in favour of leasing out the land in the public interest, the report stated, and it became evident that many wished the site be used for community recreational and cultural purposes.
Under terms of the lease, the RDN will be responsible for taxes, duties, utility payments and assessments related to the property, as well as upgrades.
A joint press release in June estimated construction costs at $1.2 million, including seismic upgrades, a new roof and hazardous material mitigation.
Osborne said work won’t begin until all conditions of the lease have been satisfied.
No trustees voiced dissent for the motion, although Greg Keller, an RDN planner, and Jessica Stanley, a member of South Wellington and Area Community Association, abstained from voting.
For more information on the project, go to www.sd68.bc.ca/south-wellington-project.