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Parents' group, citing environment, opposes plan to sell former Richmond school land to hospice society

A parents’ group is calling for a halt to the sale of Greater Victoria School District land to the Victoria Hospice Society, which wants to build a new facility on the property. The district has a potential agreement to sell .
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Victoria Hospice Society wants to buy land on the grounds of Lansdowne Middle School in Saanich. TIMES COLONIST

A parents’ group is calling for a halt to the sale of Greater Victoria School District land to the Victoria Hospice Society, which wants to build a new facility on the property.

The district has a potential agreement to sell .08 hectares of land adjacent to the south campus of Lansdowne Middle School — formerly Richmond Elementary School — to Hospice for $2.5 million.

The land involved is a triangle-shaped parcel separated from the school building and the remaining 2.5 hectares of property by a stand of trees.

But the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is concerned not only with the selling of district-owned land, but the prospect of building in an area bordering Bowker Creek.

“It’s not that we don’t think the Hospice is a worthy organization — of course it is,” said VCPAC president Angela Carmichael. “We really need to be careful about starting to dig and build on ecologically sensitive areas.”

She said she is sensitive to the fact that Hospice is currently in an old facility. It has been part of the community for over 40 years and has space in the Royal Jubilee Hospital precinct.

The Hospice plan is to use the school district site for a new centre for excellence, with ­services that include grief ­support, community education and other programs for patients and their families.

The school board says it won’t be considering the matter until the new year.

Secretary-treasurer Kim Morris said the decision to delay was made after the board received a report on the engagement process for the plan, as per Ministry of Education requirements.

“Whenever we have a proposed land disposal, through our communications department we reach out for input and feedback,” Morris said. “It’s a lot of information, we received a lot of correspondence, so I think the board just wanted more time to consider its decision.”

Chief executive Kevin Harter has said the demand for Hospice programs is growing and it must “adapt and expand.”

The agreement with the district is an important part of being able to do that, he said.

A report to the board included both positive and negative feedback on the plan.

One commenter said the money the sale would bring will help improve schools around the district, and Hospice is a worthy cause. “Any of us who have experienced the care Hospice has provided for our loved ones will understand how crucial this service is.”

Another respondent called for more consultation, saying: “The restoration of Bowker Creek as a healthy riparian ecosystem has deep commitments within the community.”

An earlier land sale of about three hectares on the grounds of the south campus of Lansdowne Middle School will allow the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Columbie Britannique — B.C.’s French-language school district — to build a new French-language school.

jbell@timescolonist.com