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100 years on, undeveloped lots in Saanich eyed for development
Two undeveloped lots that have sat idle next to Mount Douglas Park for 100 years now bear telltale survey markings for future development.
The two long-forgotten single-family properties lie at the end of Westbank Street, or at least the Westbank Street that exists on paper – a 20 metre wide, 200 metre long gazetted road that has never been fully built.
Saanich director of planning Sharon Hvozdanski said the lots are “vintage” and created in 1912, six years after municipal incorporation. The lots and most of the road are forest and largely indistinguishable from the park.
The Cordova Bay Association and the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society are calling on Saanich to try and buy the properties. Each lot is 668 square metres and hold a total assessed value of $274,000.
“Those two lots are an anomaly,” said Darrell Wick, president of the Friends of Mount Doug. “It’s a pristine area from a nature and wilderness standpoint, and from a soundscape standpoint.
“We thought nobody would develop them, and then bingo, we heard about this.”
Graham Shorthill with the Cordova Bay Association, said in the early 1980s Saanich council cancelled a proposed subdivision along Cordova Bay Road called Rockbank, and turned most of it to parkland, although these two undeveloped parcels were not part of that project.
“The direction of previous council a generation ago was the right one. We’d like these properties to progress along the same path,” Shorthill said. “It set the trend that the park is important and will be preserved.”
Shorthill said if Saanich can’t or won’t buy the land, the association wants the lots to conform with Cordova Bay community plan, which calls for larger minimum lot sizes.
Friends of Mount Doug is also asking Saanich to conduct an environmental impact assessment on blasting and earth moving that would be required to push Westbank Street up the hill and through rock outcrops.
Survey flags mark the outline of the road and lots, but it’s unclear if development is imminent. After 100 years of simply being forest, Shorthill said a neighbour noticed a survey crew working on the land a few months ago.
Staff at Saanich indicate that these properties aren’t subject to rezoning or any other process that would require public hearings. If council did mull purchasing the properties, discussion would be behind closed doors.
Saanich parks committee chair Coun. Nicola Wade said the proposal to buy the lots hasn’t come before council yet, but any such request would have to mesh with Saanich’s existing park acquisition plan.
Hvozdanski said there is nothing stopping the property owner from building the road and a house on each lot.
“Two lots have the right to be developed, but it would not be inexpensive because they need to bring servicing and a road to that property,” Hvozdanski said. “However, legally they have a right to do so within the zoning.”