The School Site Land Use Planning Study was initiated in response to a number of emerging and challenging issues and trends pertaining to current and future school sites in the Town. Council passed a resolution to:
initiate a study to review the current role of publicly funded school sites in the community; and,
determine whether the land use designations and zones in the Town's existing Official Plan and Zoning By-laws are appropriate for school sites.
Through the approval of the recommendations of Report No. PDS-2009-0033, Council endorsed the Terms of Reference for the School Site Land Use Planning Study.
School Sites Land Use Planning Study
The Terms of Reference for the School Site Land Use Planning Study outlined a five phase planning process as follows:
Phase 1 - Background Analysis and Issue Identification
Phase 2 - Policy and Regulatory Options
Phase 3 - Select the Preferred Policy and Regulatory Option
Phase 4 - Initial Policy and Regulatory Formulation
Phase 5 - Final Policy and Regulatory Formulation
In August of 2009, Meridian Planning Consultants were retained by the Town to complete the School Site Land Use Planning Study. In June of 2010, Meridian prepared the School Site Background, Issues and Options Paper, which was received by Council and subsequently presented to the public at an open house in September of 2010. Finalization of the Background, Issues and Options Paper completed Phases 1 and 2 of the study.
In February of 2011, a Council workshop was held where Meridian provided an overview of the five land use options which were developed through the study, as well as provided an assessment of the pros and cons associated with each option.
Two of the key deliverables of Phases 3 and 4 of the study included the selection of the preferred policy and regulatory option as well as formulation of draft policies and/or regulations. The recommended policy revisions were included in the draft Official Plan Amendment that was available for review and comment at the second public open house and statutory public meeting held on October 24, 2011. The study process was concluded on December 12, 2011, when Council adopted Official Plan Amendment No. 14. See Notice of Adoption.
Details of the five land use options were outlined in Report No. PDS-2011-0065. The distinguishing factor among the land use options is the range of uses that would be permitted in the Official Plan and Zoning By-law on an elementary school site. Throughout the School Site Land Use Planning Study, the Town's consultant, Meridian, reviewed the five land use options and recommended that the Town implement the fourth option which maintains the current land uses designations in the Official Plan.
Option four was selected because it indicates a preference by Council for institutional or low density residential uses on an elementary school property, should the property not be required for a public or private school. This option also maintains a public process, through the requirement for a Zoning By-law Amendment for any non-institutional use on a school site.
To enhance the existing policy framework, the study recommended that additional policies be included in the Official Plan which:
Reinforce the importance of elementary school properties as community hubs and neighbourhood gathering places.
Encourage the retention of schools in existing neighbourhoods in consideration of the role they play as a focus for community activity and neighbourhood interaction.
Require that once a school site has been identified in a newly developing area, a sign be placed on the property advising residents that a school is planned for the site but that the need for the site and timing of construction is at the sole discretion of the school board.
Prioritize consideration of alternative uses of elementary and secondary school sites, with other public institutional uses and parks and open spaces as the first priority, private institutional uses as the second priority, and commercial and residential uses subject to applicable Official Plan criteria as the third priority.