The Braefoot Community Association (BCA) hopes a letter-writing campaign will be enough to reverse the District of Saanich’s decision to end the group’s 34-year lease of the building in Braefoot Park.
The community group was stunned when Saanich announced on Dec. 16 that it would be terminating the lease for the building off McKenzie Avenue. At the time, the district explained it would be taking over the building in the new year “to meet council and community priorities.”
“We are surprised and disappointed,” said Sean Nacey, chair of the BCA board of directors. “We had always thought of Saanich as a partner.”
|The Braefoot Park clubhouse stands on land that was once Braefoot Farm. (Photo courtesy Lee Richardson)|
Nacey, like many board members, remembers when his parents and other community members built the Braefoot building in 1986. Some even remortgaged their homes to make the construction possible, he said, adding that it was initially built as a changeroom for soccer players. Other additions were built over the years by the community association, resulting in the current structure, Nacey said.
“We built the building and gifted it to [Saanich],” said Lee Richardson, executive director of the BCA. He added that the board was not consulted about the lease termination. The BCA managed and maintained the building return for leasing the building for free, Richardson said.
The BCA board had an emergency meeting on Dec. 17 and decided to initiate a letter-writing campaign to create a platform for the community to engage with mayor and council and call for the decision to be reversed.
Despite the lack of fundraisers and not qualifying for COVID-19 subsidies, the BCA continued to run community programs through the pandemic – including low-cost childcare and a scholarship program. The association was under the impression their lease would be renewed and Richardson said the board had been in contact with Saanich about updating, not ending, the lease.
In a press release, the district said in recognition of the long-term relationship between Saanich and the BCA, the community group can move to a month-to-month lease until a new space is found.
On Dec. 16, Nathalie Dechaine, Saanich’s manager of community development, told Black Press Media that the district determined a need for extra space for community programs before the pandemic began. She said the decision to terminate the lease was planned as the existing agreement expires on Dec. 31.
Mayor Fred Haynes emphasized that while he is “personally a big fan of everything that [the BCA] does,” extra space is imperative for municipal operations.
He added that the decision came from a 2018 council mandate directing staff to review the district’s land-holdings and therefore “has council support.”
To learn more about the letter-writing campaign, go to braefoot.ca/save-braefoot.