North Saanich has extended the deadline for bids to become Sandown’s long-term operator after only receiving one proposal they consider viable.
The District released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) earlier this year, but the deadline passed with only two bids submitted. It has now been forced to extend the deadline to Aug. 30 at 3 p.m..
The options currently on the table are finding a long-term operator, developing a Foodlands Trust with the Capital Regional District or just selling the property.
Sandown has long been a sore point, with some farmers complaining of a lack of vision and clarity throughout the process to decide what to do with the land. Perhaps reflecting the contentious nature of the subject, no District staff member would speak on the record, with a statement coming from the District’s communications office. It says the goal of the RFEI process is to “find out who the interested parties are for the long-term operation of Sandown, and what concepts and ideas they have.”
The District says it is open-minded about the possible uses of Sandown and could support a variety of agricultural activities.
“The zoning on the land allows agricultural and farm uses, including related exhibition, research and equestrian facilities,” says the statement. “All activities must be compliant with Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) regulations and some uses may require additional ALC approvals.”
North Saanich acknowledges the Sandown initiative has been a complex process, completed over several phases. It is currently at a stage where a company is conducting short-term maintenance in preparation for a long-term operator.
The next step is for District staff to bring a report to the Aug. 19 council meeting, which will asks councillors to discuss, amend and approve the criteria for assessment of the various options for Sandown. In their latest report, it is mentioned that a possibility is to reject unsuitable bids, extend the deadline further and direct staff to keep maintaining the site.