$40 million retail site for North Saanich

Former Sandown race track en route to a big makeover in 2015; public meetings begin next month

Public consultation on a proposed $40 million retail shopping area in North Saanich begins in earnest next month with a series of community meetings.

Set to break ground by the fall of this year, Sandown Commons will take shape on a 4.85-hectare property that was once part of a harness racing track and part of a land swap between its owners and the District of North Saanich. Idle for years, the Sandown horse racing track, owned by the Randall Family of Vancouver, will be changed — the 4.85 hectares turned into commercial property and a remaining 33.6 hectares left as agricultural land within the municipality. The process was set in motion Monday as North Saanich council approved a phased development agreement between them and the property owners. What this does is push the rezoning process forward, following steps that include public consultation, land swaps and reclamation work, leading ultimately to a development permit.

Peter Laughlin of Omicron, a development services and construction firm engaged by the Randall Family for Sandown, says they have interest expressed by retail outlets and others for an estimated 80 per cent of the property. He said he was not at liberty to say which businesses have expressed interest.

That said, Laughlin noted there are no big box stores planned for Sandown Commons. He said the space is not sufficient for that type of store. Instead, the site will be a mix of retail outlets and professional office space. He added the planned development of the Jesken Town Centre on the Tsawout First Nation includes box stores. This, he added, will compliment their own commercial development.

Depending on the outcome of the site cleanup, rezoning and permitting process with North Saanich, Laughlin said construction could begin as early as spring, 2015. He added the actual groundbreaking would take place when the grounds are cleaned up this fall.

That cleanup, says Mayor Alice Finall, will see the removal of the grandstand, stables and variety of outbuildings. The land, too, will be cleaned up with all of the remediation — work valued at an estimated $750,000 — paid for by the owners. Finall said greenery will be added to create a buffer between the commercial area and the agricultural land.

To make the deal work, North Saanich had to swap 12 acres of agricultural land of its own for the commercial property being removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Finall said that parcel will be taken from behind the municipal hall and next to the mountain biking track.

“This has always been a good deal (for the municipality),” Finall said, “and it has only become a better deal for the community.”

She said the tax benefit to North Saanich over the first five years of the project is an estimated $400,000 per year. An ongoing cell phone tower lease on the property will also transfer to the District. Finall said that lasts about three years and it will up to another council to renegotiate when it expires.

What the District plans to do with the agricultural land is still an unknown, Finall said. That will be another matter for a future council, she added.

In the immediate future, the District will take the Sandown property rezoning and development plans to a public hearing following the community consultation by the owners.

Sandown public consultation begins

Commercial plans for property at the former Sandown horse racing track in North Saanich will be presented to the public at meetings next month.

In February, the development company (Omicron) representing the owners (the Randall Family) will hold two public consolation meetings (dates and location to be determined soon. Watch the PNR for details).

Peter Laughlin, Omicron’s business development manager for Victoria, says they will show people concepts for the commercial portion of the property, get feedback and refine their plans for the site. He added already an architectural firm is working on those plans for a mixed retail and professional office centre called Sandown Commons. The design, Laughlin added, will be tribute to the property’s horse racing heritage.