Saanich has agreed to purchase BC Hydro’s 2.2-hectare parcel of land between Kings Road and Haultain Street for $5.5 million but is seeking to raise an additional $2.75 million in funding from the public.
“If Saanich council is unable to raise this amount to offset the incurred debt, Saanich intends to dispose of a portion of the property to recuperate some of the cost,” said spokesperson Kelsie McLeod.
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“We heard from residents over the last several months that this property is a crucial part of their community,” said Mayor Fred Haynes. “It’s important that we balance our commitment to fiscal responsibility with the needs of the community, so we’re asking for support to help us raise funds to cover the cost of this property.”
The parcel is listed as 1843 and 1845 Kings Rd. and also at 2661 Richmond Rd., where there is a small trail access.
Saanich entered the conditional agreement with BC Hydro to purchase the large, unique piece of land in an effort to respond to the needs of the community and capitalize on future opportunities, said the news release. Decisions about land use – including the possibility of park or development use – will be made in the future, mostly based on the ability to raise the $2.75 million, Haynes said.
In order to cover the cost of the land purchase, Saanich will consider a financial plan amendment to establish borrowing approximately $4 million toward the purchase price. The payments for this loan are provided for within the existing debt servicing budget. The other $1.5 million will come from reserve funds.
Money could come from the CRD, Oak Bay, Victoria and environmental agencies looking to protect the sensitive Bowker Creek that runs through the property.
“The initial ask was $6 million and our staff did a brilliant job of negotiating down to $5.5 million,” Haynes said. “During the last election campaign [current] councillors heard from the community that this is an important piece of greenspace, one of the last pieces of unprotected urban greenspaces in the region.
“I’m proud to say Saanich council walked the walk on this.”
BC Hydro has owned the property since 1958 and recently determined it is surplus to its needs. It offered the land to the provincial government, Crown agencies and local First Nations, before Saanich accepted the opportunity to purchase it.
Assuming the sale goes through, Saanich would take possession in late summer or early fall of this year.
A neighbourhood group rallied to gain Saanich’s interest in the property as it was only deemed surplus in 2018.