A former horse racing track has been all but cleared to make way for a commercial development in North Saanich and now the municipality is starting to plan for the rest of the property.
The District of North Saanich announced April 27 that ownership of the majority of the Sandown lands along McDonald Park Road has been transferred to the municipality. The District seven years ago began the process of carving up the land between a 12-acre commercial portion and approximately 83 acres of agricultural land. Municipal councils negotiated the transfer of land with the owners — the Randall Family — and their agents over that time. In the process, North Saanich has contributed around 12 acres of its own land to the Agricultural Land Reserve and spent thousands of dollars in preparing the site for the change.
The municipality has even held preliminary levels of planning for the agricultural portion of the property — but had still not determined what it is going to do with it. In the meantime, the land transfer itself had to wait for the owner to meet conditions set out by the District and the Agricultural Land Commission.
In their announcement, North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said the goal is to have the land “put back into productive farming.”
To that end, they have engaged a collection of local experts and the Capital Region Food and Agricultural Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) to lead the process to determine how the land will be used and managed.
“When you consider the fact that only three per cent of B.C.’s land is able to support food production, this Peninsula — with its rich soils, mild winters, and abundant sunshine — is an absolute treasure,” said Jen Rashleigh, a member of the transition planning team.
“Having a report on the future use and management of the Sandown Lands moves us towards being able to have this land put back into productive farming,” Finall added in a media release. “The team hired by Council to do this work for the community has extensive experience, knowledge and a commitment to the project.”
Another team member hinted at a possibility for the Sandown land. Bernadette Greene mentioned a “Sandown Community Farm” in the District’s media release.
“As the rising cost of land makes it harder and harder for new farmers to access land, and as the average age of farmers (56 years) continues to rise, having a Sandown Community Farm that helps new farmers learn the skills and acquire the knowledge they need to feed their communities becomes a necessity,” Greene stated.
Rashleigh added the team will engage with community partners as the site plan for Sandown is developed.
The commercial portion of the property has been under development for months. A portion of it is scheduled to be home to a new Canadian Tire store.