British Columbia

Residents oppose B.C. city's bid to put public works yard on ALR land

The vacant South Canoe Elementary School is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The City of Salmon Arm is seeking permission to use it for non-farm use, but the plan is opposed by people living in the rural area.

Residents opposed to Salmon Arm's plan to store heavy machinery on rural land containing horses and farms

The City of Salmon Arm has a deal to buy the site of the former South Canoe Elementary School. (Colliers)

The City of Salmon Arm is going ahead with a plan to relocate its public works yard to a vacant elementary school site, despite opposition from people living in the area.

The city has a deal to buy the former South Canoe Elementary School site from the local school district for $475,000.

But the school site, which has been closed for 13 years, is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The sale is conditional on the city getting approval from the Agricultural Land Commission to use the property for non-farm use.

Lisa Nobbs heads a group of South Canoe residents opposed to the plan. On Monday, dozens of residents packed the city's council chambers where councillors voted to send the application to the ALC.

Nobbs told Radio West host, Audrey McKinnon, that she is "very disappointed" by council's decision.

"The horsey" area of Salmon Arm

"The whole area is a rural area with three equestrian centres, organic farms and rural residential. It's a huge recreational area with trails. It just doesn't fit in the community," she said.

Nobbs described South Canoe as "the horsey" area of Salmon Arm.

She said properties in the area range from half-acre parcels to 20-acre parcels. Her property, which borders the old school site, is 2.5-acres.

"Basically, people here are into gardening, and they live in this quiet area of Salmon Arm because they love the quiet country feeling, yet still within city limits."

The city's current public works yard is located in the centre of town and is used mainly to store trucks and heavy machinery. The city wants to move the yard so it can build a track-and-field facility there instead.

Salmon Arm's chief administrative officer, Carl Bannister, says the old South Canoe school site has a number of "desirable characteristics."

"First of all, it's zoned properly for a public works yard. It has an institutional zoning. It's also for sale right now at what we consider a reasonable price. It's relatively flat, it's large enough and probably most importantly, it's near a gravel pit."

The proximity to a gravel pit is key because the city uses a lot of gravel in its construction projects.

No plan

But Bannister admits the city doesn't yet have "a real plan" to develop the site should the ALC approve its application.

"It's a long term goal the city is working towards, and it's probably five to 10 years away at minimum," he said.

And that has Nobbs very worried.

"To us, you don't buy a piece of property when you don't have a plan," she said. "We think it's going to cost a lot more money than they think it is."

Nobbs said she and her fellow residents will be writing letters to the ALC and will keep up the fight as long as necessary.

"Nothing will make it ok."

With files from CBC Radio's Radio West