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Council says no to North Saanich land swap

Apr 03 2012

A North Saanich land swap that would see the municipality take ownership of the majority of Sandown lands has come to an end.

A 4-3 vote at last night’s council meeting has effectively put an end to the land swap that has been inching along at council for almost a year, Mayor Alice Finall said this morning.

“I’m very disappointed and I think the community as a whole will be quite sad and disappointed,” said Finall, a strong supporter of the project.

All of the Sandown land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The proposed landswap would have seen the municipality take ownership of 33.5 hectares of Sandown land in return for taking 4.8 hectares along McDonald Park Road out of the land reserve and zoning it commercial. The municipality would then put 4.8 hectares of land off Littlewood Road into the land reserve, so there was no net loss of agricultural land.

The issue has drawn region-wide interest, as people from throughout the area supported the idea of the municipality having agricultural land. Options for that land included having the Farmers Trust administer it and use it for agricultural purposes.

But several on council had concerns about how much it would cost to rehabilitate the land, how the land would be used, and whether the municipality would be left with a large parcel of land that was a financial drain on the community. Councillor Ted Daly likened it to the Cedar Hill golf course in Saanich, which has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year.

“I’m sure that seemed like a good idea at the time too,” Daly said earlier.

Last week, North Saanich council of the whole voted to ask staff create a draft memorandum of understanding with the Agricultural Land Commission that would detail how the land issues could be dealt with.

However, last night that motion was defeated 4-3. Councillors Daly, Craig Mearns, Conny McBride and Dunstan Browne voted against the motion. Finall and councillors Elsie McMurphy and Celia Stock voted for the motion.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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