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Sooke District eyes Langford properties for new schools

Sites lie within ALR, were previously denied exclusion request
The City of Langford will make a new request to have two Latoria Road properties removed from the agricultural land reserve for the purpose of building new schools.

The City of Langford is preparing to resubmit two properties for exclusion from the Agricultural Land Reserve. If that request is approved, the combined site could be home to a new school – or two – in the future.

The Sooke School District has expressed interest in purchasing 940 and 960 Latoria Rd. as a site for new middle and elementary schools. Together the neighbouring properties are roughly 15 acres in size.

“The middle school would be our first priority,” said district superintendent Jim Cambridge, adding the site would be big enough for an elementary school to be built at a later date.

He noted the location is ideally located on the West Shore, as the district continues its efforts to keep up with growing demand. “Geographically, it fits into where our need is right now … It would make a great dual site for both those schools and would provide some benefit to the community. It’s where families appear to be growing.”

Playgrounds and fields could be utilized after school and on weekends by community members and groups, Cambridge said. “I think it would be a real asset to the community … I just hope it comes together.”

The lots were part of a cluster of properties the City of Langford asked the Agricultural Land Commission to consider removing from the ALR in 2015. Last summer the ALC refused, removing these two properties from the request. But that decision is currently under review and the City is awaiting the results.

On behalf of the current landowners, Langford is resubmitting an ALR removal request for the Latoria properties, making clear the intent to build new schools there. Schools are not a permitted use on ALR properties.

Besides requiring removal from the ALR, the sale of the properties to the Sooke School District is contingent on SD62 receiving approval from the Ministry of Education’s capital branch.

For consideration by the ministry in this fiscal year, all of the pieces would have to come together by March 31, Cambridge said. “It’s looking less likely as days go by. This deal will probably slide into the next fiscal year and we’ll probably have to ask for it again.”

The Sooke School District has a number of signed agreements in place for between four and six parcels of land, with offers ranging from $300,000 to $2 million an acre. All require final approval from the ministry to be considered as potential new school sites.

The City of Langford also holds a Right of First Refusal to purchase 940 Latoria Rd. and an Option to Purchase a portion of 960 Latoria Rd. If the ALC approves the exclusion application, the City will be asked to release these rights. Those rights were secured as a condition of the rezoning of the adjoining McCormick Meadows development lands.

Last week Langford council voted to make the ALR removal request and directed staff to prepare bylaw amendments to the official community plan, and rezoning designations for the subject properties in the event the ALC approves the exclusion. A public hearing would be held before the City releases its rights to these properties.