OUR VIEW: Let’s get farms, cost-recovery

Residents of North Saanich wouldn't have to worry about the cost of fixing Sandown if they could stomach developing part of the land

A list of numbers likely opened the eyes of many North Saanich residents Monday, when a municipal staff report showed a brief synopsis of the costs taxpayers would bear to complete the Sandown proposal.

The figure given was $693,000 after factoring in a $100,000 incentive from the land owner, Bill Randall, to tear down some structures.

Before Monday’s council meeting, some residents and councillors suspected there might be hefty costs involved, but staff hadn’t presented the numbers.

With taxpayers on the hook to beef up a property that might only be worth $2.5 million, the deal isn’t looking as sweet as it once did.

John Upward, a neighbour to the property and a developer, called the News Review on Tuesday with an interesting suggestion: Why not slice off 10, 15 acres of the 83 North Saanich would get from Randall, and sell it to a developer at market value? The developer pays to service the land.

With revenue from the sale – a few million dollars – North Saanich could make the necessary improvements to the 70-ish remaining acres, all of which are locked into the Agricultural Land Reserve.

As time goes by, the municipality and residents benefit from some tax revenue from the farm property, and the much higher tax revenue from the developed land.

Many are touting the current proposal on the table as a win-win-win situation, where the municipality, the Agricultural Land Commission and farmers all see the light. But now we know taxpayers could feel a hit.

Can’t we make this a win-win-win-win? It’s clear we need farm land on the Peninsula to benefit farmers young and old, and for the sake of food sustainability. Let’s see cost recovery take care of any of the pain of adding such a big piece of valuable, farmable land into the ALR for perpetuity, by letting a slice of it be developed.

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