The former Central School is located on Green Avenue. The large heritage property could become a community centre for people living with barriers. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Former Central School eyed for re-development

The non-profit Eclipse Foundation is proposing re-development of former Central School

Re-development of the former Central School was on Trail council’s table Monday night.

The Eclipse Foundation for Individualized Support (Eclipse) approached council in March requesting the property be re-zoned to allow use beyond the site’s current commercial designation of “Business Enterprise Zone.”

Eclipse is a non-profit foundation proposing to purchase the building and develop affordable housing units for individuals living with barriers. The group has stated intent to expand the premises with “social enterprise opportunities” such as a cafe, community gym, commercial kitchen, daycare facility, office spaces, and mini-storage units.

The present zoning classification permits a maximum of five dwelling units and short term accommodations, in addition to furniture and beer manufacturing.

A bylaw amendment is required before Eclipse can develop the property to meet its mandate of “providing affordable, safe and secure environments for individuals with barriers a quality of life in which to live, socialize and work.”

Part of that process included the city notifying residents within 50 metres of the proposed changes, in this case, 57 letters were issued. Additionally, a public hearing was required to give neighbours an opportunity to voice concerns and/or opposition to the proposed change-in-use – in total, the city received six submissions, five verbal and one written.

A handful of residents attended the public session, which was held in chambers prior to this week’s regular meeting.

Overall, the respondents were troubled with the potential of increased traffic and parking needs along the narrow and steep stretch of Green Avenue, stress on the city’s existing infrastructure, future tenancy, and the foundation’s ability to maintain the large heritage property.

Respondents emphasized the neighbourhood has developed a sense of community, which includes many children and families. They were uneasy that additional low income housing could introduce more drug and alcohol-related problems to the West Trail neighbourhood.

Shannon Ferguson spoke on behalf of Eclipse, and replied the building would be zero-tolerance and staff would be on-site at all times. She also pointed out that the majority of Eclipse clients to do not drive.

Their goal, as a small enterprise, is to provide an inclusive community and higher quality of life for those living with barriers, she added.

“We want to be the best game, not the biggest.”

Mayor Mike Martin closed the public hearing. He reassured attendees that Trail council would remain cognizant of their concerns moving forward, but he personally viewed Eclipse’s proposal as a positive.

“What I see happening here is an asset for our community and something that could serve the community very well,” he said. “I certainly appreciate the issues around parking and safety … what I’ve heard is the proponent will be doing everything they can to minimize the impact on neighbours.”

During the regular meeting, council unanimously approved a third reading for the bylaw amendment.

The process is still subject to provincial approval before final adoption.

“Any proposed zoning change within 800 metres of a Controlled Access Highway (Highway 3B) requires the approval of the Ministry of Transportation,” clarified Corporate Administrator Michelle McIsaac. “The ministry considers if the proposed rezoning will have any impact on the highway in terms of traffic volumes or pattern changes and may include requirements for said approval.”

Typically, the city receives word back from ministry staff within four to six weeks of submission, McIsaac added.

“If the ministry approves, council would then be in a position to adopt the bylaw.”

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