Part of the Sandown site where North Saanich plan to create an agricultural zone. (Peninsula News Review File)

Updated: District offers new information on Sandown plan

District to make final decisions in fall

North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr says a widely disseminated document purporting to be from council, detailing a strategy on Sandown, is actually from a community group and is just one study being considered.

The document is from a group called the Sandown Transition Team. They were contracted by council to come up with a plan, but their plan does not represent the District of North Saanich’s final position.

Orr says that within the next month, the District will release more information related to the future of Sandown, as well as a Request for Expressions of Interest (REFI). The intended outcome is to find out whether there are organizations that are interested in taking on the management and operation of the Sandown agricultural lands.

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Orr says that after input and proposals have been received, final decisions will be made in the fall and a final plan produced.

Some in the farming community say much of the information in the document is likely to happen and was discussed when Orr and Council attended a meeting with them at Kildara Farms on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. However the District want to make clear it is not a document produced by them or represent their final vision for Sandown.

The meeting was organized by Councillor Smyth and was attended by members of the local farming community. Over the past four years meetings have been held relating to the Sandown Vision process and the work of the Sandown Transition Team.

The most recent document was shared at a North Saanich Residents Association event, which saw a meeting of the eight prospective candidates for the North Saanich byelection.

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The Sandown lands project was initiated in 2010 after meetings between the Randall family, District and former Mayor Alice Finall. The goal was to transform the 83 acres of land back to agricultural purposes, to increase food security and for other, as yet undecided, community initiatives.

Some residents have pointed to the nearby Newman Farm in Central Saanich as an example of what some or all of the site could become, with a non-profit management group operating it on behalf of the District.

As decisions haven’t yet been made, council say the funding model could be heavy, medium or no investment with district funds.

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In the interim, before final decisions take place, the District are looking to remediate some of the land and are investigating its drainage infrastructure, after the recent wet weather left some of the land water-logged.

Mayor and council are keen for the land to be used in efficient and creative ways and are considering a range of proposals, such as educational facilities, a farmers market and food preparation hub.

The Sandown Transition Team’s document forms one possible proposal the council will consider, and advises setting up community partnerships and building a walking trail on the perimeter of the land.

Much of the document, while not ratified, reflects the aims of what the District and other partners hope to see from the land that”actively contributes to the livelihoods of food and agriculture producers throughout the region.”

Editors note: This story has been updated to correctly identify the origin of a document.

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