The Sidney North Saanich branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

North Saanich offers land for new library building

VIRL is in early planning stage for new library next to the Panorama Recreation Centre

A new public library is being proposed for land next to Panorama Recreation Centre in North Saanich.

The Vancouver Island Regional Library service (VIRL) is in the early planning stages for their second facility on the Saanich Peninsula. They currently operate the Sidney North Saanich Library on Resthaven Drive in Sidney and both municipalities contribute to its operation.

The District of North Saanich first proposed the Panorama site option back in 2015, says the District’s Chief Administrative Officer Rob Buchan. The idea came about after a report at the time by the VIRL stating that residents on the Peninsula were under-served by library services. A variety of options were considered in that report, from renovating to expanding the current building, to creating a new one somewhere in either Sidney or North Saanich – with the latter being favoured.

Buchan said he recently updated the Peninsula Recreation Commission on the proposal, which places the development of a new library strictly with VIRL. The District would be leasing the land to the library service provider, much like how Sidney leases land to the VIRL for the existing library.

Buchan added the District already leases the Panorama site to the operators of it, the Capital Regional District. He said under that lease agreement, there’s a provision that allows North Saanich to use empty land there for new recreational facilities.

The site being considered, he continued, is a vacant patch of land to the east of the parking lot off of Forest Drive and across the street from property occupied by Kelset Elementary School.

Buchan said the estimated size of a new library there could be between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet.

What actually goes in, he added, will be up to the VIRL as the service will be the ones to pay for its construction and operation.

Buchan said like all municipalities who partner VIRL, they have been paying for years into a facility fund levied through annual property taxes.

Buchan added he anticipates that as the VIRL works through its process, the public will have opportunity to provide feedback on any proposed new library.

VIRL Communications Manager David Carson confirmed they are looking at a new library of the dimensions referred to by Buchan. He added there will be an open house some time this spring or summer, allowing VIRL officials to hear ideas from the community.

The date of that session, he said, has not yet been finalized.

Carson said public input will be used in the design phase, which could be complete later this year.

By the fall, he continued, the VIRL could be looking to borrow money for the construction thought the Municipal Finance Authority.

North Saanich,

Sidney agree to

new library lease

The library in Sidney is here to stay – for at least 10 years after the Town and VIRL sighed a new lease agreement recently.

This month, Sidney and the District of North Saanich agreed to renew their library contribution agreement, but for a period of only three years. Sidney’s Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said that will allow enough time for the District and VIRL to explore the potential for a new library.

Humble added the lease has a buyout clause that would allow one party to take over all funding for the library in Sidney, but added that’s unlikely to occur.

And should a new library plan take longer, both parties would simply negotiate a new agreement.

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