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More housing units proposed for Buffalo Creek school

Proposal hinges on approval from Agricultural Land Commission
Owners of the former Buffalo Creek school are proposing to add more housing to the site. (Martina Dopf photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

The former Buffalo Creek School site could be home to more residential rental units if a proposed rezoning application is approved.

The property, at 5282 Canim Hendrix Lake Rd., was repurposed in 2016 when it was purchased by Ken Smith and his siblings. Since then, buildings on the property have been renovated into five rental units – a duplex in the teacherage building and three condominium units in classrooms.

An application for rezoning the property from institutional to multi-family residential received first and second reading at last week’s Cariboo Regional District board meeting. As the property is designated under the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), the application must first be approved by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) before the CRD can approve the change.

“We’d really like to see some more housing on the property, whatever the government would allow us to put in,” Smith said. “We know there is a shortage here in the 100 Mile area. We’ve had a lot of really good tenants so far and we’d like to expand into some more of the classrooms.”

The application for the 5.87-acre property would allow for a total of eight rental units. Smith said the gymnasium would stay intact and potentially be rented out for community sports and activities. A discussion with the property’s immediate neighbours didn’t raise any concerns about adding more housing to the area, he said.

CRD Chair Margo Wagner, director of Canim Lake-Forest Grove, said while the development is dependent on the ALC decision, the location would be ideal for more multi-family residential housing, given that the infrastructure and utilities are already in place and it’s in close proximity to 100 Mile House.

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“There are benefits for the older population that are looking to downsize from a large property to something more manageable, and still have the benefits of rural living,” Wagner said. “And the proximity to the hub of 100 Mile House, for medical purposes, grocery shopping, socialization and being on a major paved highway that is regularly maintained.”

CRD planning staff recommended support of the application, pending approval from the ALC. “With this application, the owner is taking the correct steps to bring their property into compliance with our bylaws,” said Nigel Whitehead, manager of planning services. “We think the rezoning application is the right path forward. When the ALC application process is complete, we will examine the appropriate next steps.”

There is currently no firm data on the needs for rental housing in the community, but the District of 100 Mile House recently agreed to work with the CRD on a housing needs assessment study for the South Cariboo.

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