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Farmlands Trust wants to buy Sandown property

Apr 05 2012

A non-profit society that buys and manages farmland wants to purchase the Sandown property after North Saanich council voted 4-3 against a land swap that would have seen 33.5 hectares of that land belong to the municipality.

"Frankly, I was shocked when I heard council turned it down," said Farmlands Trust spokesman Ed Johnson on Wednesday.

Since council's decision Monday, Farmlands Trust has told landowner Bill Randall it's interested in buying the land, which is in the agricultural land reserve. "We're in conversation with the owner to see what kind of deal we can work out," Johnson said.

The trust, established in 2008, works to protect farmland for food security and has been involved with Madrona Farm in Saanich's Blenkinsop Valley.

The group is working on a business plan - a process it started with an eye to leasing or buying from the municipality - that could see some of the land leased to farmers and the creation of community gardens, a public bandstand, a farmer's market and restaurant.

"We're not a bunch of hippie farmers. We believe in business plans," Johnson said.

That land swap would have seen North Saanich take ownership of 33.5 hectares of Sandown land, a portion appraised at $2.4 million. In return, North Saanich would have taken 4.8 hectares along McDonald Park Road out of the land reserve and zoned it commercial for the Randall family to develop. The municipality would have then put 4.8 hectares of land off Littlewood Road into the land reserve, so there would be no net loss of agricultural land.

kwestad@timescolonist.com

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