The executive director for Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) says her office is watching with “interest” as North Saanich moves ahead with plans that could lead to a library, but adds it is ultimately up to council to decide the issue.
“We are watching the developments in North Saanich with interest and look forward to working with North Saanich council and staff if and when the time comes to build a new library for the community,” said Rosemary Bonanno. “This is an important decision for [mayor] and [council] and we are available as a resource to help as needed. At the end of the day, it is [council]’s decision when and where to build a library.”
North Saanich council voted 6-1, with Coun. Brett Smyth opposed, to forward an application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to exclude almost 16 acres of the Panorama Recreation Centre land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Smyth was also the lone voice of opposition as the councillors approved necessary amendments to the Official Community Plan (OCP).
While it is not clear yet how North Saanich plans to use the lot if the ALC approves the exclusion, past and present discussions have centred around the pros and cons of a library, with other uses also in play. Based on public submissions before council, plans for a library face considerable opposition, but the proposal also enjoys some support.
Carolyn Moeller, for example, said in her submission that a new library would be “a great asset to our community” used by a range of residents. “I feel that adding the library to the existing facility will provide ideal access for all members of the community. This new library will provide all citizens with a wide range of benefits whether you are checking out books, using it for a quiet place to study or to use other services like special programming or internet access. This will also create quality jobs within our community.”
Comments from David Carson, VIRL’s director of corporate communication, also addressed some of the concerns heard from critics, including the perceived need for a library and its costs.
While Carson could not give an exact figure, he said the VIRL would pay for a library if the board supports council’s decision on a site and if the VIRL obtains the necessary financing. Since the VIRL cannot borrow directly, the Capital Regional District (CRD) would borrow funds from the Municipal Finance Authority and flow the money through to VIRL.
“Assuming the long-term borrowing goes forward, the project would be incorporated into VIRL’s overall budget, the costs of which are spread across all of our members,” said Carson. “The cost of the new library would not fall to North Saanich taxpayers alone to cover.”
As the project advances, VIRL would work with North Saanich to arrive at an appropriate cost estimate on a space that would serve the community for years to come, said Carson who calls libraries “vital community services.”
“The Saanich Peninsula is poised to see significant growth and development in the years ahead,” he said in pointing out that VIRL’s consolidated facilities master plan has identified North Saanich in need of library service. “The size of the community, its growth, and its proximity to existing library services were all taken into consideration during the needs assessments,” he said.
More broadly speaking, Carson said libraries are “quality of life services.” A library, he added, would create new opportunities for the community to “come together in exciting and meaningful ways.”
Carson also pointed out that VIRL board has also received a letter from the previous council, requesting a new library for the community. “Ultimately, it is council’s decision,” he said. “We will provide any available data to help them make the best decision for the community.”
Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner