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Another surplus North Van school district property to be sold
The North Vancouver School District is making inroads with the disposition of its surplus lands.
At a public meeting on Nov. 26 the school board voted 5-2 in favour of selling long-shuttered Monteray elementary to Morningstar Homes for at least $6.38 million.
Morningstar, which specializes in building single-family homes, is now in the process of filing a development application with the District of North Vancouver for the decommissioned school property situated above Montroyal Boulevard.
Monteray school officially closed in June 2004. The building was then leased for several years, but has been vacant since the spring of 2011.
Board chair Franci Stratton said selling to Morningstar was the right decision for all concerned parties, including the Monteray school neighbourhood.
"I think in terms of where it was located, this particular piece, the community was hoping it was something the board would approve," said Stratton.
Board trustee Barry Forward, who, along with trustee Susan Skinner voted against the motion to see Monteray sold, has maintained a prudent position in matters pertaining to surplus school lands.
"I think that we have a limited amount of public land on the North Shore," said Forward. "We have to retain [school land] as a community asset and leverage it."
At the same time, Forward understands there is a financial crunch the school district is facing.
"My question is: "Is the only solution to sell real estate today to fund these challenges?" said Forward. "The challenge with the [school] district is, we are educators — we are not land people. We wait for people to come to us with a solution."
Forward agreed the community around Monteray wanted to see something done with the property.
"No one likes a boarded-up school," he said.
Morningstar, speaking with The Outlook Friday, was excited about its foray into the North Shore market.
"Our plan would only be for single-family homes, similar to what would be in the surrounding neighbourhood," said Deborah Calahan, Morningstar vice-president of sales and marketing.
Calahan said the Monteray property was attractive to them because "not very many opportunities are available on the North Shore for large parcels of land."
Monteray is the second surplus property the school board has voted to sell. In March, the school district entered into a purchase and sale agreement for Ridgeway Annex with real-estate developer Anthem Properties.
The Vancouver firm pitched a variety of housing options for the 450 East Fifth St. site — including a mix of townhouses and single-family homes — during the bidding process last fall.
The exact details of Anthem's plan for the neighbourhood won't be revealed until a rezoning application comes before North Vancouver city council.
Meanwhile, the fate of shuttered Plymouth elementary in the Seymour area will be decided early next year. After putting out a request for proposals, the school district has short-listed three candidates: Darwin Construction, Polygon Homes and Lions Gate Christian Academy.
The school board will consider the following options for Plymouth: purchase of the building and site, a pre-paid, long-term lease of the site or a shorter-term lease of up to 10 years. The proponents will present their case at a meeting tentatively scheduled for Jan. 28 at Plymouth School.
Lions Gate Christian Academy principal Terry Kooy told The Outlook the school's lease is up at the end of June and they are now looking for a permanent home. She said the Plymouth site is the perfect fit for Lions Gate Academy because the property is zoned for that purpose, to house a school.
Perhaps the most intriguing surplus school property in play is the Keith Lynn school site. Bosa Development Corporation, which had envisioned the land for the expansion of their North Shore Studios operation, was in talks with the school district to purchase the site, but ultimately walked away from negotiations earlier this year.
Now, it's looking more like the Keith Lynn property could be used to divert motorists away from the traffic-snarled Lower Lynn area.
Currently being floated is the creation of a Highway 1 off-ramp on Keith Road that would connect with Brooksbank Avenue and run right through the decommissioned Keith Lynn school site.
At a school district-hosted meeting on Oct. 7, key players from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Transportation and DNV council and staff, among other stakeholders, got together to brainstorm solutions that would mutually benefit the cash-strapped school district and transportation stakeholders in the Lower Lynn area.
One option might be for the province to pay for the school district’s capital projects in exchange for the land, district Coun. Roger Bassam told The Outlook in October.
The school district is counting on the sale of the Keith Lynn and Monteray properties to shore up a $14 million funding gap to build a new Argyle secondary, which no longer meets seismic standards.