Clay court proposal in Saanich a hot potato

Saanich parks staff has taken an unusually noncommittal position on a proposed clay court tennis facility at Cedar Hill Recreation

Saanich parks staff has taken an unusually noncommittal position on a proposed clay court tennis facility behind Cedar Hill Recreation Centre by not giving council firm direction on approving or rejecting the proposal.

In a report to council, Gary Darrah, manager of park planning and design, acknowledged the proposal “presents both benefits and challenges for the community.”

As a result, two different recommendations were given – one approving and one rejecting, leaving it up to the mayor and councillors to weigh the information for themselves. Typically staff makes a recommendation one way or the other.

Mayor Frank Leonard says the department chose to stay neutral so it doesn’t appear to be favouring one side or the other on a proposal that has an impact on land managed by that department.

“This is not a proposal from our staff. It’s important it’s seen as a proposal from the (clay court) society and staff have facilitated it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate (staff have) been criticized for that.”

Saanich is holding special committee of the whole meeting on the clay court proposal at the Garth Homer Centre, 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

The Cedar Hill Clay Court Tennis Society proposes converting lands currently occupied by two underused ball diamonds into eight clay tennis courts and a player pavilion.

If approved and built, the courts would be open to members only, save for time the society would donate to Saanich for recreation programming.

The society is also seeking a $100,000 grant and a $250,000 interest-free loan from Saanich for the project.

Since talk of the plan began in 2011, a group of area residents has been vocally fighting the proposal, saying public land shouldn’t be used for such a narrow-use facility. The group also says the municipality hasn’t done its due diligence in surveying residents about preferred uses of municipal parkland.

The meeting takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Garth Homer Centre (813 Darwin Ave.) to accommodate a large turnout.

See vicnews.com on Friday to read about the outcome of the meeting.

kslavin@saanichnews.com