North Saanich council last month formalized the exclusion of land part of the Panorama Recreation Centre complex from the Agricultural Land Reserve, but residents will have to wait until 2023 to find out whether the municipality plans to use the land for a library.
Councillors voted unanimously to adopt necessary changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) after the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved the municipality’s request to exclude almost 16 acres of the complex. The excluded property lies in the northwest corner of the Panorama Recreation Centre lot. The exclusion paves the path for the municipality to establish a library on a separate, transferable title of land severed from the larger lot, if authorities choose.
But if current timelines hold up, the public will not learn more about plans for the site until 2023 — not until after the next municipal election — after the current council in August deferred plans to review library services from 2021.
One central reason for the deferral concerns Sidney’s decision to review library services, which it receives as part of Vancouver Island Regional Library system.
While Sidney and North Saanich currently cost-share VIRL’s Sidney/North Saanich branch on Resthaven Drive, the municipality has heard concerns about service quality. VIRL considers North Saanich under-served and has promised to fund a library in the municipality, assuming it stays in the system.
But this outcome is not certain as staff have received instructions to prepare a report comparing VIRL’s services with services offered by the Greater Victoria Library Public system (GVPL), whose membership includes North Saanich’s neighbour Central Saanich. The public heard in August that this work would take place jointly with Sidney.
CAO Tim Tantom said the municipality could review its status in VIRL independently of Sidney, but warned against such a move, because of its possible consequences, namely separation of services shared by Sidney and North Saanich. Such a process could be messy, he said.
Tanton made this comment after Coun. Heather Gartshore raised concerns about the deferral, saying she would hate to see North Saanich tied to Sidney’s timetable. If council were to defer the issue until 2023, a decade will have passed since the idea of a separate library in North Saanich first emerged, she said, adding that future councils in both Sidney and North Saanich may wish to pursue other directions in 2023.
Tanton said advance work could be done during the current council terms and be ready by the time the new councils assume their posts. (Sidney is due to discuss this issue on Oct. 14.)
Responding to concerns from Gartshore, Coun. Murray Weisenberger said he is not prepared to move on this file without coordinating with Sidney.
But if Gartshore and Weisenberger appeared at odds, Gartshore still joined Weisenberger and the rest of council to unanimously approve the recommendation to defer the review of library services until 2023.
The public also heard no disagreement with Gartshore’s argument that North Saanich must first figure out its status within VIRL before making any decision about opening a library next to the Panorama Recreation Centre, a proposal opposed by many of the residents, who had submitted comments to North Saanich during the ALR exclusion process.
Other articulated uses for the site include the creation of daycare spaces. North Saanich, like the rest of the Saanich Peninsula, has become increasingly popular with families and both possible options for the site — a library or daycare space — could receive a high level of support.
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