While the proposal in its current form may never see the day of light, a plan for Sandown isn’t out of the works – from two different angles.
“I don’t think it’s dead at all,” said North Saanich councillor Dunstan Browne. “We’ll settle Sandown. I’m not too worried.”
Browne was among four councillors who voted down a memorandum of understanding that was critical to the proposal that would see 83 acres of land become district owned. The MOU included a list of the Agricultural Land Commission’s requirements for a 12-acre land swap within the ALR of property near McDonald Park Road for municipal property. Under the proposal, the 12 acres removed from the land reserve would be rezoned commercial.
“Negotiations never stop until the actual ink is dry,” Browne said
During the April 2 meeting, Browne suggested creating a negotiating team including Mayor Alice Finall and himself to talk to the ALC and the property owners. He backed off on making an official motion when Finall, and municipal staff suggested it would be in conflict.
“It wasn’t the time to bring it back, I certainly will be pressing to continue the negotiations. As far as I’m concerned it’s not off,” Browne said. “All we said Monday night was, ‘we do not now want a memorandum of understanding.’ … It’s agricultural zoned, that’s enough.”
The North Saanich councillor said he’d support the Farmlands Trust Society if it could come up with the funds to acquire the land.
“What we want is 83 acres of land dedicated to agriculture in North Saanich. Quite frankly, I don’t care who owns it,” Browne said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t happen, it just can’t happen on the same basis.”
Ed Johnson, of Farmlands Trust, said he was surprised at the the step council took last week denying the memorandum. FLT had already put a plan in place in hopes of managing the land for the district. With the change, he said, they’re now looking to purchase.
“We’ve had one dicsussion with Mr. [Bill] Randall and he’s invited us to make a proposal, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Johnson said. Randall represents the family ownership of the lots that make up the former horse race track.
“I’ve talked to the ALC and they’re very adamant they want to see this land turned into agricultural use,” Johnson said. The FLT plan includes using the grandstand area for a market, concerts and community events. There are many options, Johnson noted including raised beds for a community garden and agricultural land remediated by new farmers.
“We’re just moving ahead with our same plan,” he said. “We’ll be looking for financial donations and volunteers to get involved because that’s who we’re doing it for.
The landowners, in the meantime, are ready to sell.
“We’re in the process of listing it … We are moving on. There is no deal so obviously we have to move,” Randall said. “Council basically has spoken. They’ve decided what they want to do.”
While he says there has been a conversation with Farmlands Trust, there are no other proposals are on the table.