A councillor’s letter to Sandown owner Bill Randall

North Saanich Coun. Elsie McMurphy writes about her views on the Sandown race track situation

I am writing with regard to your proposal with the District of North Saanich that, in exchange for commercial re-zoning of 12 acres of your 83-acre ALR property (known as the Sandown race track lands), you will give the remainder to the people of North Saanich.

As you know, the Agricultural Land Commission has agreed to this extraordinary swap, provided that North Saanich keeps the remaining land in the ALR and dedicates a complementary 12 acres of municipal property to the ALR, so there is no net loss of agricultural land. The district has a piece of  property adjacent to Sandown perfect for this purpose, and the Victoria Airport Authority, bless their hearts, will give (and truck) yards and yards of clean topsoil to this land to help bring it up to snuff for agricultural use.

Mr. Randall, you are an astute business person and obviously this is a good deal for you. But wow, what an amazing opportunity for the people of North Saanich, and our entire region, to have an agricultural amenity like this smack dab in the middle of our municipality.

Not only is this proposal future-oriented in terms of food security and environmental considerations, it will generate increased revenue for the municipality – approximately $350,000 annually – from the leases and taxes. Sure sounds like a win for everyone.

I know you are anxious to hear something positive from council about the fate of this deal, and I’m sorry that you did not get that signal at council’s last meeting. There was some kerfuffle about costs of demolishing some of the tattered old barns – thank you for your additional contribution of $100,000 to do that – and the costs of servicing, which, as we all know, developers undertake, if and when there is development. And I’m sure we can straighten out the duelling engineer opinions with further information.

I hope the CRD’s decision to support this project is encouraging to you, as it would be a shame if you decide to withdraw your offer and instead simply plan to create a handful of estate homes.

In the recent election, many, many people spoke to me about their desire to see North Saanich maintain its rural, agricultural character, and I, as one councillor, am wholeheartedly in support of this gift for today’s citizens and tomorrow’s generations, which is forward-looking, revenue-generating, protects the ALR and supports the official community plan.

That’s a pretty nice package for us and for you, Mr. Randall. When council has additional information and has this matter again on its agenda, perhaps you’ll stop by once more and hear from the people of North Saanich that they want this deal to go through.

Elsie McMurphy is a North Saanich councillor.