Wellington North council approved the purchase of a new backhoe at its Aug. 11 meeting.

A proposal to convert a former school into office space has drawn concern from local residents.

At a public information meeting on July 22, town planner Sally Stull said Kelly and Craig Walraven have applied  to rezone the former Ospringe School property at 5422 Second Line to allow a broader range of institutional uses, including a religious institution, commercial school, private school, day nursery, nursing home and business or professional offices.

Prior to discussion, councillor Josie Wintersinger declared a pecuniary interest and stepped aside from the discussion.

Stull said the previous zoning of the property was quite restrictive – as a care facility for a specific age of children who met specific criteria.

Stull said that use is no longer needed and the building was put up for sale, thus the request to allow for a broader range of uses.

The building itself is roughly 12,000 square feet.

The planner then noted the school site is within the hamlet of Ospringe and there are official plan policies that apply to the hamlets, which are historic smaller settlements.

Normally those settlements serve the surrounding areas but those uses have evolved over time.

On behalf of the proponents, planner John Cox said the former school closed in 2002 and the property was later rezoned to allow for a private school and care facility which allowed up to 32 students and 16 live-in residents.

Funding for the Avalon program ended in early 2013 and the building owners have sought to either sell or rezone the site for other uses.

Cox said this application is intended to find a fitting use for the one-storey school-type site.

Also, Cox said, the intent was to find something compatible within the hamlet designation.

He said the proposed rezoning would allow for a number of potential uses and small scale commercial use.

Cox felt the only variable might include slightly different parking requirements – a few of which might require considerably more parking.

He believed that issue could be addressed through the building permit process under site plan controls.

Nearby resident Doug Shay expressed concern over the proposed amendment.

While Shay did not oppose some of the proposal, he and his wife did oppose allowing the building to be used as a business or professional office space.

He believed the zoning needed to be much clearer on exactly what types of offices are being proposed.

Shay also said he did not believe business offices would be appropriate use for the land. He expressed hope the property use could continue to be similar to past use.

His main concern was that this appeared to be “an all-encompassing, catch-all” zoning.

Area resident Anna Spiteri said she hoped to see a traffic study.

She advised that when the public school was open, the buses and parents delivering children created traffic that was very busy and potentially dangerous.

Stull said such a report could be requested if council wished.

Councillor John  Brennan had a similar concern that it appeared the net was being broadly cast for potential uses. At the same time, Brennan understood the proponents’ wish to attract a buyer.

From a planning perspective, Brennan asked if these types of uses would typically be found in the hamlet setting.

Stull responded the proposed uses are consisted with zoning within a hamlet.

“In fact it is a reduced list of what is typically allowed in a hamlet institutional zone,” said Stull.

She noted a traffic study likely wasn’t required because one would have been undertaken when the site was being used as a school and traffic within hamlets generally moves at slower speeds.

“Unless there was some significant divergence of traffic of 400 cars per day – it would be unanticipated.”

Until a specific use was determined, Stull said it would be difficult to know whether or not a study was needed.

Shay contended traffic in that area moves at 80km/h.

Councillor Barb Tocher agreed. She said she drives through the area daily and there are no speed signs.