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Greater Victoria School District defers land sale discussion two weeks

Victoria Hospice presentation, potential third reading of bylaw set for March 14 meeting
The updated plan for Victoria Hospice Society work on Bowker Creek should the School District 61 Lansdowne land sale be approved. (Victoria Hospice Society). (Courtesy of Victoria Hospice Society)

Decision on a controversial proposed land sale by the Greater Victoria School Board (SD 61) won’t come for two more weeks, after the board and Victoria Hospice Society agreed to more time to finalize the agreement with recently refined details.

During its Jan. 24 meeting, the school board narrowly approved the first two readings of a bylaw endorsing the sale of 1.9 acres at 2780 Richmond Rd. to Victoria Hospice for $2.5 million. The society hopes to build a new centre for grief support, education and end-of-life programs on the triangular piece of what SD61 calls the Lansdowne Middle School south campus. During that meeting and previous public consultation, several concerns arose, some surrounding disposal of educational lands, but more broadly, concerns over Bowker Creek – the waterway bordering one side of the property.

The Feb. 28 meeting was to include potential final reading of the land disposal bylaw as well as a Victoria Hospice presentation to provide details relating to a Feb. 18 proposal letter to the board. The seven-page document expands on the society’s plans for the site, including creek remediation.

Society CEO Kevin Harter reiterated its stance that restoring and stewarding this part of the Bowker Creek watershed is a priority. The natural attributes of Bowker Creek and proximity to Royal Jubilee Hospital make the location ideal for the society’s work.

RELATED: Victoria Hospice targets creek remediation plan ahead of potential land purchase

The stretch, identified in the Bowker Creek Blueprint as reach 9, is among few daylighted segments of the creek. While hospice was originally unaware of the blueprint, which outlines a 100-year plan for remediation of the waterway running through Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay, its plans now embrace the document.

“Victoria Hospice is committed to remediation of the creek and will undertake restoration work in a timely manner. To date no remediation of the creek has occurred. Our vision for the riparian area habitat creation will bring community together, including students and neighbours, with a natural environment to enjoy and learn in, and learn from. It will turn a currently hazardous space into a safer, natural habitat for wildlife and people,” Harter wrote.

Plans include creating a publicly accessible greenway with a multi-use trail, benches, and information signs within the SD61 property; replacing and likely relocating the fallen fence; and widening the creek.

RELATED: Neighbours oppose land sale near daylighted Saanich leg of Bowker Creek

Hospice proposes a four-metre wide stretch with more gently sloping sides, lowering the Capital Regional District sewer right of way by one to 1.5 metres to increase the cross-sectional area of the channel for major runoff events, and providing an opportunity to slope the east side of the channel more gently.

The plan would see the creek meander with an area provided at the northeast side of the creek for an outdoor classroom; invasive species removed and replaced with native riparian plantings; a minimized non-pervious footprint where reasonable, and a greenway.

The bylaw for land disposal, as well as presentation from Victoria Hospice, are now scheduled for the board meeting on March 14, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Meetings are streamed on the SD 61 YouTube channel.