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Colchester Schoolhouse declared surplus

- Council listed the site has having heritage value in 2016 -

by Sylene Argent

At the beginning of the Monday, December 7 Essex Council meeting, Town Clerk, Robert Auger, announced the local municipal decision-makers held a 5pm closed meeting, where a proposed disposition of property was discussed.

  He went on to explain that Council gave direction to administration to disclose in open session the intention to declare 195 Bagot Street, also known as the Colchester Schoolhouse, as surplus to the needs of the municipality.

  Auger noted Council needed to make a resolution to disclose the property as surplus, direct Administration to provide the requisite public notice, and bring back a by-law to sell the property to be passed at a future meeting. Council moved this.

  Several discussions surrounding the Colchester Schoolhouse, which was built in 1881, were held in 2016 and 2017.

  At the March 21, 2016 Council meeting, Council received the report “Appraisal of Colchester School House-195 Bagot and 255 Bagot,” after Council had directed administration to get an appraisal for the Colchester Schoolhouse property previously.

  As part of this report, it was explained the Town purchased this property in August of 2008. Two years later, the Town commenced expropriation of the adjacent property, totalling 1.65 acres. The Town bought the properties with the intention of creating a community centre and park.

  At that point, it was noted the Town had spent $510,745.68 on the property, including the lots, water main work, asbestos abatement and removal, and outside wall repairs.

  It also noted a species at risk had been identified at the schoolhouse, and that must be considered in any future decision regarding the property.

  The estimated value of the Schoolhouse was appraised at $180,000.

  On Monday, April 11, 2016, a special Council meeting was held to discuss options for the Colchester Schoolhouse property. At that time, Administration was directed to investigate options on what could be done with the property.

  Rita Jabbour, of the Planning Department and the Heritage Committee, explained the schoolhouse has important heritage significance and ties in well with the area. She proposed it be listed, not designated, as a heritage site.

  Council did vote to list the schoolhouse as having heritage value. It is not designated.

  According to the Town’s website, it notes if a property is listed and the owner wishes to demolish or alter the structure, they must give 60 days’ notice to Council, who will make a decision on whether or not to issue a permit.

  Jabbour said then that not every investment can be measured in numbers, and the schoolhouse has significant value as a heritage site.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche then said the building should be looked at as a tourism location as the public could visit it as a historic site.

  At the February 21 Council meeting in 2017, current Mayor Larry Snively, who was a Councillor at the time, said he could not see the Town spending more money on the schoolhouse property.

  The Colchester Schoolhouse is listed on the Town of Essex’s website under the “Heritage Tour” page, which notes, “It was the first schoolhouse in the area built under the Public Schools Act. Its architectural style is reminiscent of schoolhouses across rural Canada during this time.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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