Private school request denied by Abbotsford council

Council decided against allowing a rezoning request to allow a Khalsa school to open on the old Simpson Elementary site.

A new private Khalsa school will not be allowed to move into the old Simpson Elementary site

A new private Khalsa school will not be allowed to move into the old Simpson Elementary site

A new private Khalsa school will not be established on the site of the old Simpson Elementary.

Abbotsford council denied a request for rezoning of the property, located at 30691 Simpson Rd., which would have become a 200-student facility.

Joe Chahal, a representative from the Khalsa School, said the location made perfect sense, having formerly been used in a similar fashion.

He told council the land and building had served as an elementary and later a middle school for close to six decades.

“The existing buildings have undergone significant upgrades by the current owners. The building is ideal for the use as an elementary school,” said Chahal.

When the school closed, the property was purchased by the Metis Provincial Council of BC, which used the facility as a trade school.

Last year, the property went up for sale.

It has been on the market for eight months and Chahal said the Khalsa School has made the only offer.

Despite his arguments, some council members were concerned about placing a school in what they called a busy industrial area.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said he isn’t against the idea of a new private school, saying there is a need for one.

“It really boils down to great idea, just wrong place. Industrial lands are very, very tight and very precious,” he said.

He’s not comfortable placing children in an industrial area, but said the city would love to see the group set up the school at an alternative location.

“This was not a case of we don’t want them.”

But other councillors felt the old school was a logical choice.

“I had some sympathy for the applicants. They’ve been looking for a considerable period of time,” said Coun. Simon Gibson. “They’ve found this location, it’s perfect for their needs, it was used as a school for many, many years and is on the east end of the industrial area.”

He said he believed council should have “at least let it go to public hearing” to give the community a say.

While the rezoning request was defeated, three councillors – Patricia Ross, Dave Loewen and Bill MacGregor – were absent from Monday’s meeting.

“We did consider deferring it until the rest of council got here. Personally I thought that was probably the right move, but in retrospect, I think council, for the most part, spoke on behalf of most council members,” said Banman.

He said if two of the three missing council members ask, the issue can be revisited.