The Committee of the whole has moved to partner with Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services to eventually secure the former Queen Elizabeth Elementary School property and transform it into affordable housing.
Committee voted to approve a motion at Thursday’s meeting and it would need ratification at an upcoming Council meeting but if approved, the move could lay the potential ground work for a possible affordable accommodation units at the 4.5 acre site situated at 35 Barker St.
The municipality’s decision to join with PELASS is 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 4th, trailing only the French Language Public School Board, The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board and French Catholic District School Board.
Back on Nov. 19, 2018, the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) declared Queen Elizabeth School surplus to its needs and began the process of disposing of the property as per Ontario Regulation 444/98.
According to a report submitted by County of Prince Edward Director of Community Development and Strategic Initiatives Neil Carbone, the size and redevelopment potential of the Queen Elizabeth School property provides the municipality with an opportunity to address one or more emerging needs within the community.
“In accordance with the regulations, the Municipality and Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services (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 is the highest ranking agency that expresses interest prior to the Feb. 19, 2019 deadline,it would provide an opportunity to negotiate with HPESDB over acquisition terms during a 90 day period.
This report was seeking Committee’s direction to submit expressions of interest for Queen Elizabeth School with the intent of negotiating acquisition terms for the property.
Simply expressing an interest at this stage does not bind the Municipality to acquiring the property, and any subsequent decisions including negotiated terms of acquisition must come back to Council for approval.
According to the report, 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 Carbone.
Councillor Stewart Bailey asked Carbone about what would be required to cement a formal agreement with PELASS and what was in it for them.
Carbone said while there is a verbal agreement to partner with the local social services agency, there could be more documentation required at a later date.
“PELASS have an interest in seeing affordable housing and that’s one of the potential high priority cases for part or all of this property,” Carbone said “PELASS have been regular participants with our affordable housing task team and involved in the discussion in the development of the Not-For-Profit housing corporation.”
Carbone believes PELASS have as much interest in seeing the municipality succeed in acquiring the most important asset for housing development there is- land.
In supporting the motion, Councillor Phil St. Jean said the municipality would be kicking itself down the road to not move forward.
St. Jean noted the initial success of the LoveSong project that seeks to transform Pinecrest Memorial School into a 50 unit seniors living community hub and how the municipality played a role in what is viewed by most as a positive turn for affordable housing in Prince Edward County.
“To lose an opportunity like this would be foolish and we will need the partnership with PELASS down the road if this goes forward anyway,” St. Jean added.