The sponsors of a petition opposing plans for a soccer field on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land in Central Saanich said the proposal would violate one of, if not the primary goal of that community’s Official Community Plan – the preservation of agriculture.
Stacy and Mark Sherman’s petition opposing plans by Pacific Soccer Academy FC (PACE FC) to build an all-weather soccer field on ALR land next to their home on Tomlinson Road continues to gather signatures, having reached 744 names as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The Official Community Plan says that this type of rural environment and agricultural environment is the priority to preserve and we don’t think that the development preserves that,” said Mark Sherman.
Jenn Stevens, a board member with PACE FC, told the Peninsula News Review last week that the club hopes to build an all-weather soccer field near the Saanich Fairgrounds on a 10-acre property at 7480 Tomlinson Rd. recently purchased by Harj Nandhra, the club’s long-time community coach. The plan, with a hope of finishing in spring or summer of 2021, also calls for 150 community garden plots, each of 1,000 square feet.
But the Shermans, who have emerged as the public faces for some 30 people living in the neighbourhood, said the proposal is not appropriate for the area, pointing to the long history of agricultural use on the lot.
“It has always been a viable piece of land and it has been in the ALR since its inception in 1972,” said Stacy. “And used for agriculture ever since then and before then too,” added Mark.
His concerns include the health of humans and the environment with worry of chemicals leaching off a standard all-weather turf field and changes to the rural character of the area, with Mark predicting it would “transform” the area if approved, drawing additional traffic and creating light pollution.
Approval, for now, appears a long way off. The proposed all-weather field would require approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) as non-farm use. No application has come forward so far and likely won’t come forward for some time in the absence of a site plan by the club.
Any application, if it were to come forward, would also undergo extensive reviews by municipal staff as well as the ALC.
The Shermans acknowledge these aspects, while also remaining cautious in questioning the club’s communication so far.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” said Mark. “There is just a lot of enthusiasm and looking for support in the soccer community, without talking to the community, without talking to council, without talking to the ALC, without having town halls.”
The Shermans stress that their opposition does not target any specific person or the idea of youth-sports itself.
“This has to do with ALR land. It has been [ALR land] since its inception. It’s [zoned for A1], it has been heavily used and supporting the local economy, who live here. It’s in direct support of our community plan,” Mark said.
Stevens pointed to the community gardens that would be part of the plan and said the club plans to address public concerns.
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