PLYMOUTH elementary may be transformed into duplexes, townhouses, a private school or a skills school, depending on the North Vancouver School District's direction following a jam-packed community meeting Tuesday.
Approximately 360 people crowded the defunct school's gymnasium to hear preliminary pitches for its future.
The first came from Darwin Properties, which proposed to carve the parcel near Mount Seymour Parkway into about 20 lots, primarily building on the school building site and the gravel field. If Darwin is granted the density they are requesting, the project would include a district-dedicated 3.2-acre park.
Traffic concerns were a focal point of the evening, but Darwin president Oliver Webbe assured the crowd his company's 10-duplex plan would reduce traffic in the immediate area by approximately 85 per cent when compared to the peak hours of school use. If approved, the project would take approximately one year to build, according to Webbe.
Darwin is requesting a 99-year lease, leaving ownership of the land in the school board's hands.
The meeting included a boisterous crowd of Lions Gate Christian Academy supporters, many of whom applauded loudly for the school's vice-chairman, Robert Tarnowski, who made his own bid for use of the space. After 18 years on the North Shore, LGCA is looking for a new place to set up shop for the 2013 school year.
"Our current landlord has given us notification they would like the property back," Tarnowski said of the school's impending exodus from its Harbourside Drive location.
If the LGCA proposal is successful, building would need to be dramatically renovated, according to Tarnowski, who said a complete re-build is a possibility.
"It would most likely be an expansion as opposed to a redevelopment," Tarnowski said.
Enlarging the school would likely mean reducing the park space that currently abuts Tollcross Road.
With between 300 and 350 students, the school anticipates seeing about 90 vehicles a day, although Tarnowski said a bus program could be considered. Parking provided by the school would be minimal, according to Tarnowski.
One community member who said he was a Plymouth elementary graduate expressed concerns about the school's values, and inquired if the academy favoured evolution or creationism.
"It is a faith-based, biblically based program," Tarnowski said. But the school is provincially accredited and teaches the B.C. curriculum.
"It is not an elite private school," Tarnowski said, explaining that approximately 10 per cent of LGCA students are in learning assistance programs.
Residents also heard a plan to build 87 townhomes on the site from Polygon. The homes would likely sell for between $600,000 and $650,000 according to company president Neil Chrystal.
Each three-bedroom townhouse would likely be between 1,350 and 1,500 square feet. The project would provide housing opportunities for young North Vancouver residents without the financial means to stay in their community, according to Chrystal.
It would resemble Polygon's Wedgewood development on Orwell Street in North Vancouver. "We know we'll never have a 100 per cent buy-in," Chrystal said, acknowledging the contentious nature of infill housing.
While a park would generate the greatest community approval, the development option would generate far greater capital for the district, according to Chrystal.
Speaking for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Angela George discussed a school option focusing on basic skills and technology training with an enrolment of approximately 100 students.
"We don't anticipate changing the footprint of this existing building," said George.
The school would be designed to help Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students transition into post-secondary studies or careers. It would likely include courses to train future cooks, as well as technology fields on wind power management.
"We'd like to contribute to up-skilling local people," George said. The band would likely spend $1 million on seismic upgrades and improving the school grounds, as well as adding parking stalls.
Former West Vancouver superintendent Doug Player urged the community to back the Tsleil-Waututh's bid.
"The Tsleil-Waututh really are this community," he said. By granting the school a 20-year lease in five-year increments, the Tsleil-Waututh's proposal allows for the greatest flexibility while also generating the least amount of traffic, according to Player.
The night also featured several calls to re-open the elementary school, with some residents predicting an influx of youth into the empty-nester dominated community.
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