West Kelowna’s Hudson Road Elementary will soon have another building after the city approved the school district’s non-farm use application.
The Central Okanagan School District (SD23) submitted the application in order to build on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), where a portion of the school currently stands.
The proposed building will be at 1,500 square metres, providing 92 child care spaces. The city’s planning manager Brent Magnan said the building will be used as an early learning program facility, hosted by BGC Okanagan.
Magnan added the new space will help fulfill the city’s goal of creating 306 new child care spaces in the next ten years, with the school district selecting the location as it is central and easily accessible via the highway, and has a limited impact on residential neighbourhoods. He added the school district didn’t have many options when it came to providing new child care spaces in the city.
Coun. Jason Friesen was the first to voice his support.
“Throughout the province, school districts are stepping up to assist early learning child care spaces and fortunately, the government is also providing a lot of funding for them,” he said.
“I’m very happy to see that we’ll get some additional support in our community.”
Coun. Rick de Jong, however, said he felt conflicted about the proposed facility.
“I am very pro-early learning child care spaces, we need them as a community. But on the other side, I’m also pro-agriculture and pro-ALR,” he said.
De Jong acknowledged that due to the location of the free land, it may never actually be farmed, but said he didn’t want to take out the greenspace and replace it with a building instead.
“I’m a pro-agricultural individual. I can’t support this today… I want to support the school district, I know we need the spaces but I can’t support them putting it on the flattest piece of ALR land on this parcel,” he said.
Mayor Gord Milsom and other councillors said the only other concern they had was access to the facility. With 92 new spaces, they said there may be some congestion as families drop off and pick up their children, as well as congestion from people trying to access the nearby car was station.
Magnan said the proposed entrance to the facility is still open to negotiation and that city staff are in communication with SD23 to make changes if needed.
The motion passed, with Coun. de Jong the only one opposing.