Plans for a new Okanagan College campus in Salmon Arm have been scuttled.
According to Okanagan College, the enrolment numbers were not enough to justify the new facility.
“We very much appreciate the generous offer of 20 acres of land for a campus closer to Salmon Arm’s downtown, but the agreement around the proposal included some conditions that we will be unable to meet,” explained Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “It would be unfair to Jerry Thompson (the prospective donor) and municipal planning processes to tie up the land by suggesting that we might be able to meet them in the near future.”
The offer of land to the college and the City of Salmon Arm’s commitment to servicing were contingent on a number of factors that the three parties agreed to in 2013.
Those included developing education and business plans that would warrant building a downtown campus. Because the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, the eventual donation would hinge on having the Agricultural Land Commission approve removing the parcel of land from the ALR, based on the education and business plans.
“We worked hard to identify programs and circumstances that would take us past those conditions, but we have been unable to do that,” said Hamilton. “One of the reasons is because we have not experienced the enrolment demand for programs in Salmon Arm that was anticipated, mainly as a consequence of changing demographics and declining school populations regionally. In order to proceed with an application to the Agricultural Land Commission we would need a compelling case based on a lack of space at our current facilities. That is not the case at this time or within the time frame anticipated by the agreement.”
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper said city officials are “disappointed that Okanagan College will not be proceeding with the downtown College campus, at least in the short term, due to enrollment challenges.
“The city remains committed to the concept of an expanded campus in close proximity to the downtown. The City is here to support the College in continuing to grow the Salmon Arm campus."
Hamilton said Okanagan College’s efforts will be focused on increasing enrolments and developing new programs to take advantage of the capacity at the current Salmon Arm campus and the associated trades facility (located in the industrial area).
Thompson is optimistic about the future of the college in Salmon Arm.
“It may have been a big dream for all of us at this time, but in the future it will happen, it just was not the right time. We do not attach any blame to the Okanagan College staff, as we think they did what they could in this environment. But as we move forward and we must, other opportunities will present themselves,” Thompson said in a press release.