A group of Vic High alumni are calling on the BC Minister of Education to suspend and investigate a land transfer allowing the construction of a greenway next to the school’s track, as part of an approved affordable housing project.
Friends of Vic High (FOVH) made the request in a letter on Wednesday, saying the Greater Victoria School District Board (SD61) exceeded its authority in approving the land swap deal with the City of Victoria in last June.
The deal included the granting of a statutory right of way that allows Capital Region Housing Corporation’s Caledonia project to include an eight-metre pedestrian greenway adjacent to Vic High Lane. The alumni are wondering if this transfer of land has had ministerial approval.
Friends of Vic High argue that the right-of-way leaves too little land to revitalize the school’s Memorial Stadium. The group also claims that this information was withheld during public consultations on the land swap in 2019 and 2020.
“We ask that you immediately order a suspension of any transfer of interests in land pending a full investigation of this matter by your office,” reads a letter from FOVH to Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside.
Victoria Council approved the development of 158 affordable homes last fall. During a public hearing prior to approval, some speakers expressed concerns about the impact this would have on the track and any future upgrades to it.
The eight-metre greenway easement was requested by Victoria, during the rezoning and development permit review process for the Caledonia project, to conform to the city’s greenway plan and official community plan, according to a spokesperson for the Capital Region Housing Corporation. The “people-only green lane” is for active transportation and no vehicles are allowed to use it, unless there is an emergency or the city needs to do some maintenance.
Friends of Vic High said the school’s Memorial Stadium had been deteriorating for more than 50 years as SD61 schools such as Oak Bay High saw continued investment in high-end infrastructure.
“Over the past few years, concerned Victorians have witnessed a disturbing pattern of issues relating to systemic inequality, systemic racism and fiscal mismanagement at SD61,” the alumni group said in a statement. Press release.
Vic High is undergoing a $77.1 million renovation that includes retaining the existing exterior and rebuilding the school’s interior. This option was chosen among two cheaper ones to modernize the structure and its systems ($40 million) or build a brand new school ($47 million).
A Department for Education response to Black Press Media said it was aware of the letter to the Minister and would respond through the appropriate channels. He did not respond to a follow-up question asking what this channel is.
SD61 said he received a copy of the letter and reviewed it.
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