Bylaw amendments approved for boarding school at former SCITS site

Rakesh Gupta. June 27, 2022 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)

A Toronto-area developer has cleared his first hurdle in the planned transformation of the old Sarnia Collegiate Institute and Technical School [SCITS].

Sarnia council unanimously approved official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to allow a private school, dormitory, daycare and small commercial opportunities at 275 Wellington Street.

Rakesh Gupta told Sarnia News Today that he’s hoping to make the building ready for occupation as quickly as possible.

“Sitting vacant is not good for the building, and for us, and for anybody else,” said Gupta. “So, we are planning to work as fast as we can to make it ready.”

The school plans to enroll 253 students, accommodating 228 of them, and will welcome Lambton College students into its dorm to fill any vacancies.

Gupta said minimal changes are required initially.

“Immediately we’re going to use it for a dormitory for students. Whether it is for the boarding school or for the Lambton College students. So we are planning to do the minimal changes, in terms of just adding some washrooms. There are many showers but we are adding some more.”

Gupta is aiming to open the dormitory by September.

Once Ministry of Education approval is granted, Gupta expects most of the boarding school intake will be international students.

“There are a number of countries where parents want to send their kids to Canada for an education.”

He said in some ways the facility may act as a feeder to Lambton’s international programs, but he said Canadian students will be allowed enrollment as well.

In addition to the boarding school and dormitory, 86 daycare spots are planned and it’s expected 40 new jobs will be created.

Some concerns were raised by neighbours worried about noise and other disruptions, but Gupta doesn’t anticipate any issues.

“There are a number of Lambton College students [already] living in that neighbourhood and our site will be much more supervised at all times and [have] security arrangements.”

He said if there were issues in the future they would be addressed.

Councillor Mike Stark said he was impressed by the planned reuse of the building. He also confirmed with staff that any building activity on the southern portion of the campus would be subject to further rezoning.

Councillor Brian White appreciated the developing group for reaching out to community members.

“This is a breath of fresh air to have a group of investors who are so committed to reaching out,” said White. “They’ve connected with individual members of the Mitton Village community itself, retailers, other commercial operators in the area, as well as residents in the area and that is feedback that I’ve heard from within the community itself.”

White said the project will help address student housing needs in the city among other things.