A local developer said he and his partner would be willing to partner with the District of Saanich in developing the former Royal Oak Golf Course.
Victoria-based Denis Mamic confirmed that in an interview with the Saanich News. He and Saskatchewan-based Dwayne Walbaum are partners in the numbered company 1122590 BC Ltd that owns the property.
Saanich continues to process an application from the company filed in December 2017 to remove 85 per cent of the 27-acre lot from — some 23 acres — from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) after purchasing it for $3.5 million in 2017. Mamic estimated that the company has since paid an additional $200,000 in taxes, mortgages and other costs.
Mamic said he and his partner have no firm plans for the property beyond building what he calls a “mixed use development” that may include a public component. “If it comes out [of the ALR], the possibilities are open,” he said. “That could include Saanich.”
Before they sold the course in 2017 the former golf course owners, the Cordero family, proposed a mixed use of single-family detached homes to the surrounding residents, a proposal that met with mixed results.
Mamic said the last owner of the lot had raised the possibility of building a hockey rink on the site. Such a facility does not factor into the plans of Mamic and his partner, but Mamic also acknowledged it as a possibility.
“Again, it’s up to the public and Saanich to determine what direction they want to go in,” said Mamic. Within this context, he promised extensive consultation with the community, once the property is out of the ALR, on top of existing efforts.
For now, it is not clear yet whether Mamic and Walbaum will be able to do anything on the site. More than 18 months after filing their application, they are still waiting on an answer from Saanich. Assuming an affirmative response from the municipality, their proposal will then appear before the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Questions about the fate of the property appear against the backdrop of concerns about local food security and ecological conservation. Ross Blackwell, a consultant working for the owners, who had spent the better part of a decade working for the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), said two separate reports, one authored by him, have found that the lot is neither capable nor suitable for agricultural production.
ALC planning staff have also signaled in the past on more than one occasion that they would support exclusion, said Blackwell.
This said, not everybody in the area is thrilled with plans by Mamic and his partner. A petition from area resident Donna Cino has drawn more than 1,600 signatures against the proposed ALR exclusion.
“This 27-acre green space should be left undeveloped, cherished for the use of this and future generations to enjoy,” the petition reads in part. “Do we want the Royal Oak area to become like Stu Young’s Langford? More people and cars than the infrastructure can possibly handle, devoid of all character and wildlife?” it reads later. “Please, enough is enough and I implore powers that be to NOT ALLOW this last large parcel of land to be removed from it’s present zoning, to be held in perpetuity as an area of enjoyment by humans and animals alike.”
Blackwell said this proposal is not realistic against the backdrop of the current affordable housing shortage, adding that any future housing development on that site would more than fulfill any number of planning principles, including density, walk-ability to shops and services, and proximity to natural park space, in this case Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park.
Mamic said he hopes to have a response from the District in the next few months, adding that he would have preferred to have received an answer a year ago. This said, he does not think that Saanich’s response time represents a signal of its intentions. It is not uncommon for applications of this sort, he said.
Kelsie McLeod, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said the application to exclude the Royal Oak Golf Course from the ALR is still in progress with a decision pending. “We expect the application will come before [council] in early fall,” she said.
McLeod added later that Saanich hasn’t had any formal discussions regarding using the club house for programming. “[No] plans are in place to use the property for public recreation projects,” she said.