Demolition of the buildings and reclamation of the land at the former Sandown Race Track in North Saanich isn’t going to start until the developer meets with the community.
North Saanich council ratified its approval of a plan to redevelop the 39-hectare site at its Oct. 7 regular meeting. The Randall family, who owns the property, and development company Omicron will retain 4.85 hectares for commercial growth and will gift the remaining 33.6 hectares to the municipality. They had to win approvals from the Capital Regional District and the Agricultural Land Commission prior to moving ahead with the district. The deal is almost identical to one the council turned down in 2012— the main sticking point being the cost to the municipality to clean up the land for agricultural use. This latest agreement has the owners and developers paying the whole shot — an estimated $700,000 to $750,000 — to tear down the grandstand and outbuildings and remediate the soil.
Peter Laughlin of Omicron says they are now in the position to work on a phased-in development agreement with North Saanich.
“That will commit us to doing the (remediation) work,” he explained, “and work with the municipality on the disposition of the agricultural land.”
Actual work at the site will probably not begin, he said, until after a planned public hearing in December.
Prior to that, however, Omicron plans on meeting with community groups and holding public meetings to get community input. Laughlin said they have already set up meetings this month and next with the North Saanich Residents Association and the Friends of Sandown Park.
“We will be meeting with them over the next four weeks,” he said, adding there will be up to two more before the December public hearing on the zoning change for the property.
That zoning change, he continued, will also set in place the form and character of the commercial component of the development. Laughlin said between now and then, Omicron will create up to three options for the site and narrow them down after getting public input.
A big question on everyone’s mind will be just what is planned for the new commercial land bordering the existing industrial park.
Laughlin said he has no answer to that right away, but did say they took ideas out to test markets earlier this year.
In February, Laughlin told the News Review Omicron took a commercial concept to Vancouver and Toronto conventions of the International Council of Shopping Centres. A listing for the property through Cushman & Wakefield Ltd. at the time showed plans for a strip mall. That listing also mentioned the possibility of residential use of the property but all parties to the land deal say residential is off the table.
Addressing letters sent to the municipality — all of which decried the idea of residential at Sandown — Councilor Ted Daly made it clear the district isn’t considering that.
“We need to respond to such letters that, one, there’s no net loss of agricultural land; two, there’s no housing (planned for the site), and; three, Sandown land (that the municipality will receive) has been reserved for agricultural use.”
The district is working on which parcel of land they are going to be swapping with the ALC in exchange for rezoning the 4.85 hectares for commercial development.
Laughlin said in addition to a shopping area concept, they are also considering office space.
“We know the Victoria Airport Authority has significant development plans of their own and we would consider something that’s complimentary to that.”
Long-term plans outlined by the airport authority show potential development sites at the corner of Beacon Avenue and the Pat Bay Highway, as well as their designated technology park along Willingdon Road.
Laughin said he’s hoping to be able to address any concerns people might have with the project at the public meetings, which he also thinks will help them create a good plan.
“We expect to deliver a project — in my own backyard as well because I live in North Saanich — that we can be proud of.”