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North Saanich inches closer to Sandown land swap

Jan 12 2012

North Saanich council has "inched" ahead on a plan for the Sandown racetrack lands, Mayor Alice Finall said Wednesday.

The council voted unanimously in favour this week of having the land appraised and also putting $9,000 toward investigating environmental issues.

"I do see this as a positive step, although it isn't huge," Finall said.

The new council, elected in November, is split on a landswap proposal that would see the municipality take ownership of 33.5 hectares of Sandown land, all agricultural, in return for taking 4.8 hectares along McDonald Park Road out of the Agricultural Land Reserve and zoning it commercial. The municipality would also put 4.8 hectares off Littlewood Road into the land reserve, so there is no net loss of agricultural land.

The issue has drawn regionwide interest.

More than 300 people attended a meeting Wednesday night to show support for the need for sustainable farmland.

It is anticipated that the 33.5 hectares would eventually be used for agriculture of some type.

Councillors Ted Daly, Dunstan Browne, Craig Mearns and Conny McBride have voted against moving the proposal ahead at earlier meetings, but voted in favour of the appraisal and environmental study.

Browne asked for the appraisal, suggesting the value of the 33.5 hectares of land that would go to the municipality might be less on appraisal than its almost $6-million assessment. Appraisals look at current market value and are sometimes different from assessments.

The four councillors had concerns at a meeting in December about a variety of costs and issues about the potential landswap.

This week, municipal staff provided a report with many of those answers, including an estimate of almost $700,000 to proceed with the proposal.

The amount includes an agrology plan, fencing along Glamorgan Road, drainage, site clearing and soil remediation and demolition of buildings that are not up to standard.

The appraisal will likely be back before council by the end of the month, Finall said.

She emphasized that if the proposal is approved by council, it does not mean that the municipality has to decide what to do with the 33.5 hectares in any hurry.

"We could have community consultations, set up a task force to explore all possible uses and all possible ways to achieve those uses," Finall said.

If the landswap does not proceed, owner Bill Randall said he will sell it off in eight parcels, and estate-style houses would likely be built on the properties.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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