A.B. Greenwell school is finally being demolished.
Greenwell was originally opened in 1969. In February of 2007, the school was closed due to a mould infestation and students and staff were moved into the vacant Yount school in Youbou which was then closed in June of 2006.
The old Greenwell school was formally closed by bylaw on May 15, 2013 because it was determined to be surplus to the needs of the district as it underwent reorganization. The school has been empty and decaying ever since, posing both a nuisance and liability.
According to a press release from the Cowichan Valley School District, provincial funding was the key to the old building being demolished.
“Recently the Board of Education was successful in applying for demolition funds from the Ministry of Education and Child Care,” said the release. “These funds have allowed the board to contract Milner Group Ventures Inc. to remediate and demolish the old school.”
A long time coming, Cowichan School District Board of Education chair Cathy Schmidt said it’s welcome news.
“The board is grateful that the Ministry of Education and Child Care has approved the funds to demolish A.B. Greenwell. The demolition of this school will be a welcome sight for many in the neighbourhood,” she said.
It’s been an ordeal to get to this point as the school property is Crown land and belongs to the provincial government.
The site will be returned to their care once the demolition, slated to conclude March 31, ends.
“Final arrangements will be made with the provincial government at that time,” said the release. With the school district out of the picture, the Town of Lake Cowichan now only has to deal with the province for its request to use the land.
For years, the town has been trying to acquire the land for a public works facility. But with it being Crown land and within the Agricultural Land Reserve there are unique hurdles. The province turned down the town’s first application to remove it from the ALR. A March 2022 resolution tried to come at it a different way: a non-farm-use application.
Another hurdle has appeared, however as Premier David Eby has announced his government’s intent to help battle B.C.’s housing crisis, in part, by utilizing more Crown land. As a result, the 2022 application has been suspended.
“We’re reapplying for that to accommodate non-farm use for two portions of the land, not the whole property,” Lake Cowichan Mayor Tim McGonigle said. “It’s a convoluted process it’s been involved in but we’re hopeful that we can at least accommodate the non-farm use in the two portions we’re looking for.”
McGonigle said he’s been given no indication as to the timeline of the town’s application process.