A deadline for the owner of a former horse racing track in North Saanich to have a final reclamation plan complete is fast approaching and now they’re turning to the municipality to pay for drainage work.
Platform Properties, the development company acting on behalf of the Randall Family, owners of the Sandown property, is asking that the District of North Saanich pay $569,000 to address water runoff issues around the 95 acre property — and another $65,000 towards a new culvert crossing an adjacent road.
If the work is not done, it could jeopardize the transfer of a large portion of the land to the municipality.
Councillor Geoff Orr says the District is currently considering its options and councillors plan to meet again this week to consider additional information about the drainage issues and how much of it is their responsibility.
Stemming from engineering work done by Platform Properties in the course of meeting conditions set out by the Agricultural Land Commission, Orr said the company has asked the District to pay the cost of dealing with water runoff issues. Those ALC requirements must be met before they will allow the removal of approximately 12 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve for commercial development — and allow the rest of the property to be turned over to the municipality.
The ALC set Nov. 14 as the deadline for their conditions to be met by Platform Properties.
Orr said this is a separate issue from runoff caused by the commercial development itself. The proponent, he explained, has already made plans to deal with the direct runoff from its plans. This latest issue, he continued, is about stormwater management from what will become District property, to North Saanich’s current drainage through the McDonald Park industrial area.
“The question is, how to make up for the estimated 9,500 cubic meters of displaced water,” Orr said.
Plans presented to council this week call for berms, ditches and other water flow features and controls to help funnel existing high water levels in the ground and on the surface, into drainage with enough capacity to handle it. The District, he continued, is being asked to pay $65,000 for a $90,000 box culvert on Glamorgan Road. The developer would pay the remaining $30,000.
The District is also being asked to come up with $569,000 to pay for stormwater management on the Sandown land “to address capacity constraint on the McDonald Park Road drain.” Proposals from District staff to council have the money coming out of their general infrastructure reserve and the developer would do the work.
Orr said the issue of stormwater drainage and capacity through the McDonald Park Road area is known to the District. He said an early 2000s report has been referenced by staff and by the developer, regarding drainage issues in the area. That, said Orr, is something council wants more information on this week. He said it appears while the issue has existed for some time, it’s never been made a priority in their financial plan. It’s only been pushed to the fore in the wake of the Sandown reclamation and drainage plan for the commercial development.
In normal circumstances, Orr said the District requires developers to pay for site services (including drainage) created by their projects. In this case, the matter is being presented as a pre-existing District issue that North Saanich hadn’t contemplated in its long-term financial plan.
The proponent’s reclamation and drainage plan was approved by the ALC at the end of September and was approved by North Saanich council Monday night. That approval, however, is appraently linked to the stormwater issue, Orr said.
That means without a decision on the stormwater costs, the entire deal could be stalled. As well, the looming ALC deadline — and an apparent deadline with Canadian Tire, the site’s first tenant — has the developer asking council for a quick decision, something Orr said he personally wasn’t happy with.
“There have been negotiations (between Platform and District staff) and the challenge is these are the sort of things that happen out of open council meetings,” he said, adding had his repeated requests for more information about Sandown negotiations been heeded, council might not have been blindsided by this latest request.
Council had plans to meet Thursday, Oct. 19 to try to reach a decision on the money request.
The Randall Family has already agreed to pay more than $800,000 to demolish buildings and clean up the former race track, in exchange for the 12 acres of commercial land. Orr added council is hearing from Platform those costs have increased significantly, but have yet to see details.
Orr said he’s estimating the cost of site reclamation, all told, could exceed $2 million.