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Plan to purchase former QE School property for housing moves to next step

Council approval of a $1 million conditional offer is the next step in the desire to see the former Queen Elizabeth Public School property in Picton become an affordable housing community.

The Hastings Prince Edward District School Board has notified the Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS) that its expression of interest for the purchase of the former school and property – in partnership with the County – was the highest ranked submission.

Should all go well, a master plan would be made for re-development of the 35 Barker St., Picton property into a mixed-use residential community that includes affordable housing options, childcare, a community health hub, services, community gardens and recreational programming.

PELASS and the County both submitted joint expressions of interest last fall. PELASS, however, ranks higher on the list school boards are required  to follow when offering surplus properties. Municipalities are ranked ninth on this list, well behind PELASS, and the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board which won the first bid, after the property was declared surplus in 2018, but later chose to build a new St. Gregory’s school on another property last year.

The County and PELASS now have until April 1 to officially submit a conditional offer of $1 million.

Funding would be shared, the offer conditional on the County securing funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) National Housing Strategy Co-Investment Funding Program, which would allow the purchase price to be an eligible expense for reimbursement resulting in the purchase of the property ultimately being at no cost to the County or PELASS. The County would own the building.

Council is being asked to approve the County’s required share of $200,000 for the purchase to be paid upon acceptance of the conditional offer and waiver of conditions, with $100,000 taken from the tax rate stabilization reserve and $100,000 from the capital sustainability reserve – with expended funds to be reimbursed by year end from the CMHC funding program.

Last month, the council for Lennox & Addington County approved the allocation of up to $800,000 from their Housing Reserve Fund as a conditional financial contribution toward the initial purchase of the property by Prince Edward County with the amount allocated to be repaid by Prince Edward County by Dec. 31, 2024.

“Based on discussions with CMHC and prior approvals of funding granted to the PECAHC (Prince Edward County Affordable Housing Corporation), staff are confident that an application for the funding of the property purchase as described would be favourably adjudicated by CMHC,” states Charles Dowdall, executive director of housing, in his report to council. “The inclusion of other service-delivery components such as childcare, health, and community services further strengthens the CMHC funding application for the simple reason that the proposed master plan is not just affordable housing in isolation and is the development of a “community within a community.”

Council needs official approval of the offer at its meeting March 28. The offer then must be accepted by the board of education. Following due diligence, consultation with the public would be planned.

The offer to purchase is conditional for 180 days from the date of acceptance with a one-time further extension of 90 days, if necessary to waive a half dozen conditions including title search, survey, Environmental Site Assessment for soil and water, hazardous building materials assessment and grant funding approvals.

The cost for required due diligence is $250,000 to $350,000. An application to the CMHC Seed Funding Program will be made for its maximum allocation of $350,000.

The school was closed following an accommodation review in 2017 and students moved to the new K-12 Prince Edward Collegiate Institute.

Council first discusses the issue at its Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, at 1 p.m.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Tim Johnson says:

    Is the County now a real estate tycoon? A dozen years ago the County asked the tax payers to support the construction of $12 million in new fire halls on the promise unsuitable existing sites would be sold. The promise was net zero investment. Not a single site has been sold and money continues to pour in to maintain and enhance those sites. Now our Council wants to expand its holdings by purchasing the former Queen Elizabeth site. Why not repurpose some of your existing supposed unneeded properties, at a minimum reducing the escalating debt load council continues to burden the tax payers with?

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