At first, it didn’t seem the polarized North Saanich council would agree on the recommendations before them to edge the Sandown proposal forward.
But after more than an hour of back-and-forth discussion and comments from the public, council agreed at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting to draft a memorandum of understanding with the Agricultural Land Commission.
All but Coun. Ted Daly voted in favour of drafting the MOU.
Tension in council chambers grew when Coun. Dunstan Browne said feedback from the community and from the staff report on the proposal had him considering the option of selling the land if it were acquired by the district.
Coun. Elsie McMurphie shook.
“I do not want to be a party of this process if we’re going to acquire this land and sell it,” she said.
Daly added he and other councillors had suggested selling the land “from the start,” provoking calls of “shame” from the 60 or so people in the chambers.
The staff report and the Farmlands Trust’s offer to take on management of the property both include an option for the district to sell the land.
Daly suggested an amendment to the recommendation that the district sign an MOU, that no current or new tax revenue be used to make the mandated improvements to Sandown. He withdrew the amendment when it was clear the rest of council did not support it.
“Without this proposal, there is no new tax money,” Mayor Alice Finall said. “We are eliminating the possibility of using the new revenue to complete this project.”
Rob Buchan, chief administrative officer for the district, presented four cost-revenue scenarios in his report to council.
“None of the four scenarios use more than 50 per cent of the tax revenue increase,” he said, referring to revenues expected from rezoning 12 of the 83 acres to commercial land, which owner Bill Randall plans to develop.
With council in agreement on drafting an MOU, they unanimously agreed to work on language for bylaws to allow a public market on the property and to increase the allowable floor space to 50 per cent from 40, for the commercial component.
Both items will be discussed at a future public hearing before being finalized.
Council also voted to defer consideration of the Farmlands Trust’s proposal to manage the land until after those bylaws are finalized. Only Daly opposed.
“We will end up with a Cedar Hill Golf Course and look how that turned out for [Saanich],” Daly said.
The back story
Land owner Bill Randall would give 83 acres of land at the former Sandown race track to the district in exchange for zoning 12 acres of land to commercial, for development.
The Sandown proposal was initiated by the district and includes terms, such as signing a memorandum of understanding with the Agricultural Land Commission and covenants to restrict use of the land.
The Farmlands Trust, a not-for-profit, has proposed to manage the land, potentially leasing farm plots to farmers and operating a public market.
By the numbers
An appraiser determined:
• 95 acres, at current zoning – $3.98 million
• 12 acres, commercial zone, unserviced – $4.1 million
• 83 acres, agricultural zone – $2.4 million
• 12 acres, commercial zone, serviced – $7.8 million to $10.45 million