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Cortes library slated for old school

The Strathcona Regional District board was expected Thursday to vote on holding a public hearing for a bylaw change that would allow the shuttered Cortes library to re-locate to a former island school.

Recommendations for first and second reading, as well as to forward the bylaw amendment to a public hearing were on the board’s Thursday meeting agenda after the Mirror went to press.

The Linnaea Farm Society of Cortes has applied to the regional district for a bylaw amendment to allow public library as an accepted use in the Agricultural Land Stewardship One zone. The society hopes to house the library at its former school site at 1255 Seaford Road.

“The proposed library site is centrally located on Cortes Island, and is accessed a short distance from the main road between Manson’s Landing and Squirrel Cove,” said Brian Reardon, regional district chief administrative officer, in a report to the board. “As public library is not a permitted used in the ALS-1 zone, a zoning amendment will be required to bring the proposed facility into compliance with the Cortes Island zoning bylaw.”

Linnaea Farm Society stepped forward with a proposal for a new library space after the original library in Manson’s Hall was unexpectedly shut down last May by the Vancouver Island Regional Library due to safety concerns surrounding the building’s mezzanine.

As it turned out the weight of the library books was too much for the floor to handle and the regional library was forced to closed the library out of fears the floor could collapse.

Vancouver Island Regional Library took steps to find a new spot for the library last June, when it issued a request for proposals for a new space after talks with the Southern Cortes Community Association to find a temporary location broke down.

The Linnaea Farm Society was the only respondent and entered into an intent to lease agreement with Vancouver Island Regional Library on Sept. 15.

The society intends to house the library in the Twinflower wing of the former Linnaea School which was established in 1987 as a publicly funded elementary and junior school as an alternative educational program with an emphasis on the arts.

However, the school was forced to close in 2010 due to declining enrolment.

According to Reardon, the building has been underutilized since the school’s closure and the Linnaea Farm Society has been looking for opportunities to increase the use of the existing infrastructure to offset the costs of maintaining the building.

Reardon said if the bylaw amendment is approved, the Cortes library would occupy one of the two classrooms in the Twinflower wing which was built in 2006.

Since the library closed last year, islanders have only been able to check out books via the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s online system. A temporary holds location has been set up on the island for customers to return and pick up requested materials.

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