The District of Central Saanich will proceed with conditional plans to purchase 25 acres of land in Maber Flats after a public open house was held last month.
A report written by the District’s Director of Engineering and Public Works was received for information at last week’s regular meeting of council during which two motions pertaining to further investigation into the purchase price and further public consultation were turned down.
The District of Central Saanich entered into a conditional land sale and donation agreement to acquire the 25 acres of land in August. A donation by Brentwood Developments Ltd. (the current property owners) could see the purchase price set at $1.17 million.
The land is expected be used to construct an agricultural drainage facility in the Hagan-Graham watershed.
Reports and reviews in support of the project were received from the Healthy Watershed Committee, Peninsula Streams and the Peninsula Agriculture Commission, among others, but of note was a report received in opposition to the project from the Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC).
The report cites several issues the AAC has with the project, including concerns about the purchase price of the land being too high and that any project undertaken should be careful to mitigate any adverse impacts on neighbouring farms.
Issues around drainage have plagued farmers in the area for years, said Dan Ireland, a farmer who owns land affected by seasonal flooding.
According to Ireland, the land has serious seasonal drainage issues and the current land owner has bermed portions of the land resulting in more standing water sticking around for longer periods of time.
“We’ve seen many of the neighbouring properties to the flats also berm their land because the water level was getting worse and worse. By berming their land, it exacerbated the problem, but you can’t fault them for it, they have the right to try and protect their land from being flooded,” Ireland said in a previous interview with the PNR.
During council’s Oct. 6 meeting, Councillor Alicia Cormier made two motions pertaining to the issue. the first was asking staff to prepare a recommendation in respect to options for further public consultation. The second asked staff to seek two additional independent appraisals for the land.
“The open house was a starting point for public input but I want to know the other options that are available to us,” said Cormier.
During the open house, 37 people signed in and 18 feedback forms on the project were received by staff, McAllister’s report stated.
Patrick Robins, the District’s CAO, estimated the cost of seeking two additional land appraisals would run between six and 10 thousand dollars.
“Technically, should you wish to obtain additional appraisals, nothing would preclude you from going to the vendor with that price,” explained Robins.
As for the cost of the appraisals, Cormier argued that six to ten thousand dollars on a million dollar land purchase is a low cost.
Both of Cormier’s motions were defeated during the meeting (Councillor Ryan Windsor excused himself from the proceedings citing a conflict of interest because his property lies within the Maber Flats flood plain).
An earlier concept of the Maber Flats project included a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to create a wetland area and nature reserve, however, the current agreement is just between the District and Brentwood Developments Ltd.
Bruce Greig, Director of Planning and Building Services, said public input via email will be collected until mid-month. Feeback forms can be found at centralsaanich.ca.