It appears the dream of turning a vacant and surplus public school in Picton into a solution for Prince Edward County’s affordable housing crisis will likely remain just that.
The Picton Gazette has confirmed that a joint ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI) submission for the former Queen Elizabeth School in Picton on behalf of the Prince Edward County and Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS) has not been accepted by Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board.
Prince Edward County media and communications co-ordinator Mark Kerr told the Gazette via email Tuesday morning the bid “was not successful.”
In January, the committee of the whole voted to approve a joint EOI submission that would see the County and PELASS potentially enter into a negotiating window with the board that would transform the Queen Elizabeth building and 4.5 acres of land at the corner of Barker and Centre streets into an affordable housing concept.
According to the report submitted at the Jan. 10, 2019 committee meeting, Queen Elizabeth School is strategically located on full municipal services and in close proximity to essential community services and population centres.
“In our major settlement areas, opportunities to acquire parcels of land of the size of the Queen Elizabeth site are not often available to the municipality. This property could provide the municipality with a number of opportunities to address issues that would benefit the community including but not limited to the development of affordable and attainable housing,” said Neil Carbone, the County’s director of community development and strategic initiatives.
The municipality’s decision to join with PELASS was two fold in that the organization provides several functions in the affordable housing matrix as well as its place in the provincial pecking order when it comes to surplus school disposal.
Under Ontario Regulation 444/98, the Province of Ontario has an established method for disposing of an educational property declared surplus to the needs of the board and that process for disposal under Ontario Regulation 444/98 section 3. (1) requires that the board solicit expressions of interest from a designated list of organizations.
While the municipality currently resides in 12th position on the list, PELASS is fourth, trailing only the French language public school board, the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board and the French Catholic district school board.
“In accordance with the regulations, the municipality and (PELASS) are public sector agencies which are able to submit an expression of interest (EOI) for the property within an initial 90 day window,” Carbone wrote. “PELASS has agreed to submit an expression on the municipality’s behalf on account of their higher priority ranking on the list of eligible public agencies.”
If the municipality or PELASS was the highest ranking agency that expresses interest prior to the Feb. 19, 2019 deadline, that would provide it an opportunity to negotiate with the board over acquisition terms during a 90-day period.
The County and PELASS were notified Feb. 21, 2019 they were unsuccessful meaning that one of the three preceding organizations have entered a 90-window with the board to negotiate for the dispersal of the Queen Elizabeth property.
The Gazette e-mailed the ALCDSB, the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est and the Consiel des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario for confirmation that any of the respective organizations entered an EOI.
Those inquiries were not immediately answered.
Both Catholic and public French-language boards have schools in Trenton to presumably service the education needs of children whose parents serve at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
At the time of the announcement of Queen Elizabeth’s closure, the community was rife with rumour that St. Gregory Catholic School on Owen Street could be relocated to the grounds of the soon-to-be vacated public school although such a move is speculative at this stage.
It’s also possible that the 90-day window between the board and whichever organization was expressed an interest ahead of the PELASS-Prince Edward County bid will close without an agreement being struck, at which point it’s presumed the next ranked organization would have an opportunity to negotiate with the public school board.