The Sooke School District is nearing a deal with the District of Metchosin on the sale of the Metchosin School, which now hosts community arts and seniors groups. (Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff)

Metchosin, Sooke School District close to sale agreement

Metchosin is looking to acquire a school in the heart of the municipality

The District of Metchosin and the Sooke School District are close to a deal that would see the municipality take ownership of the nearly five-acre Metchosin School property.

“We’re working towards and getting close to accepting an offer [with Metchosin],” SD 62 secretary treasurer Harold Cull told the Gazette.

Mayor John Ranns confirmed that the municipality has revised its initial offer following negotiations with Colliers International, the agency that’s negotiating on behalf of SD62, and that a new offer was submitted this week.

The property has an asking price of $1.5 million, but Ranns said at a June council meeting that the municipality had $700,000 budgeted for the acquisition.

He declined to disclose any further figures on Tuesday.

A number of ideas have been discussed as to how the municipality might use the property should a deal go through.

A heavy focus on arts and culture appears likely, falling in line with the building’s current use as the home base for the Metchosin Arts and Culture Community Association.

Ranns would also like to see the gymnasium converted into a small theatre that could host arts and culture events, and mentioned that there could be an emergency services component as well.

“It’s a big facility for a small community so we are actively examining having a portion of the school utlized for a regional training centre for fire and emergency services,” he said.

“To have a facility like that has the potential of saving a good [amount] of money for the smaller fire departments.”

He was quick to clarify that Metchosin doesn’t intend to compete with other West Shore arts groups or performing arts centres.

“We’re looking at a venue where a lot of the smaller groups … could just come and have a place to perform that was community-owned and not having to pay big rent,” he said.

All of these potential uses of the space are merely ideas for now, Ranns added.

“We’re hearing so many different potential uses that we are coming to the conclusion that it’s better that we retain it and then explore all of the uses that could be possible there.”

The longtime Metchosin politician admitted he has some concerns about the long-term maintenance and upkeep costs on the building. It’s believed to be in good condition and the municipality hopes it can recoup all costs through rental agreements.

Cull expressed that the school district has a desire to see the property continue to benefit the community, adding to the attractiveness of Metchosin’s offer.

“We’re getting to be a bigger school district and Metchosin is part of the school district. We want to make sure that community interests are protected as much as we can. If that can happen and meet our needs in terms of being able to dispose of the property … it’s kind of win-win,” he said.

Other parties have had discussions regarding the Metchosin School property but only the District of Metchosin has submitted an offer.

The Sooke School District continues to search for land for new schools, with an expansion of Royal Bay secondary and new middle and elementary schools at the top of their wish list.

joel.tansey@goldstrem

gazette.com

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