County wants school board to reconsider bid

Prince Edward County officials are asking the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board to reconsider its expression of interest in the vacant Queen Elizabeth School in Picton. The municipality and Prince Edward - Lennox and Addington Social Services would like to explore turning the 53,500 square-foot building into an affordable housing complex. BRUCE BELL jpg, BI

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PICTON — Prince Edward County officials are requesting Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board (HPEDSB) reconsider the joint expression of interest (EOI) for the former Queen Elizabeth School property in Picton.

“Our vision for this property offers the greatest potential benefit for the community,” said Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson.“We want the opportunity to make our case for the property to the local school board so it remains in the hands of the municipality to address critical needs. Among those are housing options for businesses’ employees. We also want to stem the migration of young families out of the County because they can’t find affordable housing.”

Ferguson said Picton has an urgent need for more affordable and attainable housing, given the make-up of the municipality’s labour market and access to health-care and professional services. However, increasing housing stock in the town is challenging given the lack of available land in the residential core.

“As most people are aware, we have an acute shortage of vacant land in settlement areas – particularly Picton – that could be developed for attainable housing. The chance to acquire such a large, strategic parcel of municipally-serviced land in the heart of Picton does not come along very often,” Ferguson said. “Council has identified housing needs as one of its strategic priorities during its term. In addition to addressing affordable housing, we would also have the opportunity to improve traffic flow in the neighbourhood and potentially co-locate municipal and other services at that site.”

Pinecrest Elementary School in Bloomfield was closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year and after the building was declared surplus by the HPEDSB, the municipality and LoveSong Seniors Housing and Community Hub partnered and now plans are well underway to convert that building into a housing community.

Plans are to convert the 46,000-square-foot building on a 20-acre lot into 25 affordable units and another 25 units to be rented just under market rents, as calculated by Prince Edward – Lennox Addington Social Services. Cost of the project is estimated at $6.3 million.

After closing Queen Elizabeth School in 2018, the HPEDSB declared the property surplus on Nov. 19 of that year and stated its intention to dispose of the surplus real estate property according to Ontario Regulation 444/98. The County and Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services (PELASS) submitted a joint EOI to negotiate the purchase of the 53,500-square-foot facility which sits on 4.5 acres on Barker Street in Picton. However, the County was informed in February 2019 that an organization higher on the priority list was invited to submit an offer to purchase the property.

The priority list contains 21 separate organizations. The Prince Edward – Lennox Addington Social Services currently sits at No. 4 on the list while Prince Edward County is No. 12. The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board is No. 2, behind the Public Schools Council of Eastern Ontario.

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