Council has another look at future of Virgil school

Council approved a land use study for Virgil Public School, but it was a tie vote that failed to move forward a process to give the property a third-party heritage designation.

Both issues were voted on in poll votes at Monday night's council meeting after being deferred at a September meeting.

The land use study was approved unanimously.

At the meeting led by Deputy Lord Mayor Maria Bau Coote during Dave Eke's absence, Mike Galloway, chief office administrator began the discussion with his opinion on both issues at the council table.

He said a land use study would be beneficial for a future developer who purchases the former school site and would not affect the current zoning of the property.

"I'm not too sure what the study will indicate but it will help a future developer to decide what to do with the property."

But Galloway was not in support of giving the school site a third party designation and suggested the issue be deferred until the property has been sold by the Niagara District School Board.

"I would suggest holding the heritage matter until council has been given an opportunity to meet with the new owner of the property and incorporate the heritage into a larger development plan."

Before councillors began their debate, Councillor Martin Mazza asked what constitutes a conflict of interest, referring to Councillor Jamie King who declared a conflict in September for both the designation and land study of Virgil, after receiving conflicting legal opinions.

King later said he was not in conflict and voted on both issues.

Bau Coote said it wasn't the time time or forum to discuss that issue.

Galloway clarified the issue, explaining that it's the responsibility of the individual member of council to deem a conflict of interest, which means incurring a financial gain.

He added there is legislation readily available so if councillors have a concern about conflicts they can file a complaint to be heard through the proper channels.

Councillor Jamie King said he supported both the land study and the heritage designation.

"I'm excited to be able to vote because I don't consider myself to be in conflict with this matter."

He said the study will offer options to potential developers, which is good for growth in Virgil.

King added that residential growth in Virgil has been tremendous, but now it's time to see more commercial growth.

"There has been a completely residential growth ­- Virgil hasn't seen the corresponding commercial growth."

Councillor Gary Zalepa said he would support both issues, especially the heritage designation because it would slow down the demolition process from 10 to 60 days if a developer filed an application to develop the property.

"We want to do what's best for our community and that four acres of land are an important part of Virgil."

Zalepa said timing is important and if a new property owner decides to tear down the school, a heritage designation means the difference between scrambling on the phones and setting up interviews. A designation would give council more control."

Councillor Terry Flynn didn't support a designation because the property is still in the possession of the DSBN.

He said it would be better to table the issue until the property was sold.

"I don't think it would be prudent for me to approve this recommendation at this time," said Flynn.

"There is a time and place when it can be reintroduced. I don't agree with forcing a designation on a whole property because of one corner," Flynn said referring to the original one school room.

Councillor Dennis Dick said it would be ideal to have a developer to discuss both of these issues with.

"It would be beneficial for council and for the person who will purchase the property," said Dick.

"From my perspective, I will support the land study but I will not support the designation."

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