Relations between Sidney and North Saanich appear to be at a new low in the wake of debate over a proposed lease between the town and the Memorial Park Society.
The Society, operators of the Mary Winspear Centre, functions as a result of a Trust document that outlined the land they have must be used for the benefit of all residents of both communities. The Society went to the B.C. Supreme Court last year to have that document changed to allow them to lease land. Specifically, to lease land to Sidney for a new fire hall — or community safety building.
Despite those plans including public use spaces and possibly housing local paramedics who serve both communities, North Saanich has made a legal challenge to the Society. District council has stated it doesn’t believe such a lease will benefit everyone and, therefore, could be challenged further.
Sidney has shot back that the lease will give the Society an infusion of much-needed funds to help maintain the operation of the Mary Winspear Centre. This entertainment and community hub benefits more than these two municipalities.
So who would lose if the lease is signed and the Town builds its community safety building?
The site being considered for the building is already being used for a commercial venture and the rest is essentially a dirt parking lot. It could be argued that a building for emergency services would be of greater benefit to the area.
North Saanich seems to agree. In its correspondence with the Town, the District claims they do not oppose the structure — only that it comply with the Trust.
That could mean they are simply asking, “What’s in it for North Saanich?” It’s highly unlikely that they are challenging this only to save Sidney from long-term legal troubles.
Sidney and North Saanich councillors and staff planned to meet this week to iron out their differences. That seems difficult to achieve now, as North Saanich appears entrenched in their position, while Sidney faces the prospect of battling the so-called “forces of no.”
It’s caused a chill between neighbours, with no spring thaw in sight.