A proposed international boarding school is one step closer to becoming a reality in Kimberley after Council voted in favour of an Official Community Plan map amendment, changing the zoning on two sections of land.
Purcell International Education (PIE) proposes to build an international boarding school on Kimberley Golf Course and adjacent lands owned by Westcastle Developments. They came to Council asking for an OCP map amendment to allow for future planning and development of the campus.
At a regular meeting of Council on Monday, Council voted six to one in favour of the change, but not without some hesitation from Council members regarding plans going forward.
Council also held a public hearing on the matter, of which at least 20 members of the community attended.
A few community members voiced concerns about the proposed location acting as a wildlife corridor. Other concerns revolved around access to the school, with traffic being the number one concern among residents who spoke at the public hearing. Others were also looking for a more detailed plan in terms of what the school will look like, and wondered about supervision of the students.
Manager of Planning Services Troy Pollock explained that this is step one in a multi-step process, and simply allows for the land to be zoned as commercial, which is necessary if the school is to eventually be built.
“The OCP amendment on its own will not authorize any physical changes to the lands,” Pollock said in his report to Council. “The details of the design and layout of facilities and infrastructure for the campus will be subject to further review and decision on future applications for zoning amendment, subdivision, development permits and building permits.”
He adds that the proposed campus areas are in close proximity to existing infrastructure, allowing for easy access to utilities, pathway and road connections.
Tom Ristimaki of PIE was at the public hearing, stating that there will be a community information night in the near future, likely to take place on Thursday, December 5, 2019.
He adds that information about the proposed school is available and he encourages those with questions to contact PIE directly. To view PIE’s full explanation of economic, social, and environmental benefits of the proposed school, visit the agenda package from Monday, November 25, 2019 on the City’s website, or visit www.piecanada.ca.
“The business model is deliberately not competitive with the local school districts. We care about the kids, the environment, and the community we live in. We also care about the community’s quality of life. We are very careful and intentional about who we work with,” he said. “This is an important step forward in the process for us tonight, and there will be many more opportunities to discuss the specifics going forward.”
Councillor Darryl Oakley voted against the OCP amendment, stating that if PIE does not have secured funding from investors, the City is utilizing staff time poorly.
Councillor Kent Goodwin had the opposite to say, stating that this OCP change will show commitment from the community.
“Changing the map does not take a lot of effort on our part, and the proponents will have trouble securing funding without the support of the community,” said Goodwin. “My issue is taxation. This type of school is exempt from taxes under provincial legislation. I’m willing to go ahead with the OCP change but that’s it right now. Going forward we need a solution to taxation.”
Councillor Sandra Roberts agreed that this is the first step in an ongoing process.
“We need to take this next step to allow for future plans. [PIE] needs to know what they are planning on. It’s not a big step with the OCP,” she said.
Mayor Don McCormick was the last to speak on the matter, agreeing that there is a lot of work ahead for both PIE and City staff before the school is built.
“The OCP is the highest level change and most simple change. No organization will invest unless they know the community is supportive with the land use,” McCormick said. “There are three or four layers cascading down from here with higher and higher levels of detail.
“We all need to have patience with the process; details will become more clear and we will continue to make informed decisions going forward.”