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Richmond private school given go-ahead by ALC to rezone, expand

A 261-square-meter modular building will be allowed for the school's expansion.
Choice School for Gifted Children's proposal to rezone will be addressed by the City of Richmond's planning committee on Nov. 9.

Expanding a private school in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) will have “little to no impact” on farming, according to the provincial farmland governing body.

Choice School for Gifted Children has been given the go-ahead by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to continue to run its school on a former church property and to install a 261-square-metre modular building for a classroom expansion.

The next step is for Richmond city council to rezone it.

The expansion would allow the school to open up 30 new spaces for students.

Choice School for Gifted Children Society bought a former church on Westminster Highway in 1992 and applied to rezone it, which the city allowed.

The school applied in 2019 to rezone 20411 and 20451 Westminster Highway to add two more classrooms.

A city staff report noted, “an ALR non-farm use application is required to allow the existing education uses to continue and to construct a new classroom building.”

City council forwarded the application to the ALC, which has to approve non-farm use in the ALR, in January 2021. Only then-Coun. Harold Steves voted against forwarding the application.

In its decision, the ALC found the proposal for rezoning and expansion would not impact the ALR after looking at the surrounding properties around the school.

“The Property is separated from active farming operations by exempt ALR land and a large commercial cranberry processing facility,” reads the ALC decision.

“Based on these factors, the Panel finds that (the proposal) would have little to no impact to the integrity of the ALR, and adjacent and nearby farm activity, or the continuity of the surrounding ALR land.”

North of the school is a large commercial cranberry processing facility and, to the west, is an adjacent school area, which is exempt from the ALC Act and regulations because it’s smaller than two acres.

The property east of the school falls outside the ALR and is a commercial industrial property.

The city’s planning committee will decide on Nov. 9 whether the rezoning application is introduced and forwarded to city council for first reading.

-with files from Maria Rantanen