Purcell International Education (PIE) has requested an amendment of the City of Kimberley’s Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw 2600 to allow for the future planning and development of an international boarding school campus.
The amendment was brought forward at a regular Council meeting on Monday, October 28, 2019, where council voted to move ahead with first, second and third readings of the amendment. There will also be a public hearing on the OCP amendment, which is scheduled for Monday, November 25, 2019 at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.
In a report to Council, Manager of Planning Services Troy Pollock explained that the planning and development of the campus is currently proposed in two phases.
“Phase one is proposed to be situated on lands south of Highway 95A between Mark Creek and Kimberley Golf Course comprising approximately 2.1 hectares (5 acres),” wrote Pollock. “The phase one subject lands [are] owned by Westcastle Developments and the adjacent unimproved portions of road right-of-ways.”
He adds that phase two is proposed to be situated on a portion of the Kimberley Golf Course lands comprising approximately 8.4 hectares (20 acres).
“PIE has accepted an offer to purchase the lands from the Kimberley Golf Club and the Club has authorized this application to proceed prior to completion of the sale.
The phase two subject lands include [a] portion of the golf course, numbers 6 to 9, and unimproved portions of adjacent road right-of-ways.”
The purpose for the OCP amendment is to re-designate the phase one lands from residential to commercial, and re-designate the phase two lands from parks, recreation and open space to commercial.
Pollock adds that the proposed school is a for-profit entity that will qualify as a Group 4 Independent School under the BC Ministry of Education classification scheme.
“The overall campus is anticipated to include a range of facilities including school buildings, student housing, outdoor learning spaces, shared living/dining/study spaces and sports facilities,” said Pollock. “Phase one is anticipated to include school and accommodation facilities for 150 to 300 students. Phase two is anticipated to include additional facilities to support growth of up to an additional 300 students.”
Mayor Don McCormick says that there are several layers of permitting that Council will have to consider before the project can officially move forward and that the OCP is a high-level document, or the first stage of the process. Some of the other types of permitting that will likely come up include development permits, variance permits, zoning amendments and overall design review.
“The OCP is our guideline, nothing is set in stone. We have to amend the OCP many times throughout the year to accommodate projects that come up and don’t fit with what was outlined originally,” McCormick explained.
Pollock says that the next step is for the public hearing to take place, after which the proposed bylaw amendment will see the final vote from Council.
“One of the things we [Council] grapple with at the highest level is residents who feel they are impacted by a particular decision; they want details that aren’t yet available,” said McCormick.
He adds that proponents typically will not go to the design stage without first knowing if a bylaw or zoning amendment will be approved.
“We look forward to the next stage,” the Mayor said.
That being said, there is a fairly comprehensive outline of the plans for ‘Purcell Collegiate’, the name of the proposed school, in the City Council agenda for Monday, October 29, 2019, available through the City’s website. It aims to explain the economic, social and environmental benefits of the school, and was submitted by PIE President Duncan MacLeod.
He writes that PIE intends to develop a “world-class international boarding school” which will employ BC certified teachers and teach the standard BC curriculum for grades 7 to 12, while also offering specialized courses such as outdoor education, robotics, forensic science, entrepreneurship, etc..
He says Purcell Collegiate will attract and enroll students from three primary streams:
1. Competitive high-level athletes (mostly Canadian and American) seeking specialized training, a more flexible timetable, and sports-related post-secondary scholarship opportunities;
2. Graduation-track international students seeking an immersive multi-year (English only) educational experience and a BC high school transcript/diploma as a well-regarded admissions pathway to prestigious North American universities;
3. Short-term (5-10 month) international students from around the world seeking a boarding school experience that offers strong academics, unique electives and world-class recreation in a small-town setting.
“The business model has been deliberately designed to complement the local public school system and highly successful Rocky Mountain International Student Program (RMISP), which benefits students, families and businesses throughout our region,” wrote Duncan. “We all care deeply about Kimberley and want this community to thrive, which is why we want to build this extraordinary school here.”