Regional district wants former school site

The Strathcona Regional District is interested in buying one of School District 72’s surplus properties.

The site in question is the former Stuart Island School which was closed by the school district in 1984.

The Stuart Island Community Association has for several years been trying to acquire the coveted property in order to turn it into parkland.

Tom Yates, the regional district’s acting chief administrative officer, said the association has enlisted the help of the regional district to intercede in its efforts to acquire the land where the former school still stands.

“The land is owned by the Crown and held in trust by School District 72 (SD72),” Yates said. “Previous efforts to acquire the land were thwarted by the discovery that School District 72 did not have legal authority to transfer its interest in the site owing to the limited estate provided to the School District by the Crown.”

Area C Director Jim Abram, whose electoral area encompasses Stuart Island, said the regional district has been trying to secure the former school site for nearly 10 years.

“One day it’s good, the next day it’s not good, and it’s gone back and forth over a period of time,” Abram said. “Now we’ve reached a point where school districts provincially have talked about this position of surplus properties – this is one of them. It’s immediately adjacent to a community park on Stuart Island and they’ve been trying to get it for that purpose, to add to that park. The community is totally behind it.”

Yates said because School District 72 has recently released a district-wide facility plan and has requested input on the disposal of surplus assets, that this is the opportune time to bring the Stuart Island site into the discussion.

The school district is recommending a three phase plan to deal with under-utilized space and optimization of resources and the second phase, slated for the next three years, is to look at surplus properties including sites at Rock Bay, on Stuart Island and on McPhedran Street. The report states that the sale of those properties could “free some funds that could be directed towards the maintenance and betterment of our existing facilities.”

Campbell River Director Michele Babchuk said now would be the time to reaffirm the regional district’s interest.

“I do believe that it is timely, I also believe the Ministry of Education is plugged in to looking at surplus properties,” Babchuk said. “This piece is part of phase two (for SD72) and it’s timely to get on it and let them know.”