A community leader says the question of whether a local service club gets to sell a piece of green space in Metchosin affects all of Greater Victoria.
“It is a significant issue for Greater Victoria, because this is a property where children can get experience with the outdoors,” said Jay Shukin, president of the Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin. “They can do so in a safe environment with mentors around them and we are losing our natural spaces day by day because of the pace of development, especially on the West Shore.”
Shukin made those comments Sunday afternoon after hundreds rallied in their vehicles outside the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria property in Metchosin to protest club plans to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property. The lot slated for sale is a legal subdivision and does not require rezoning with the decision in the hands of an approving officer not council.
The proposed subdivision and sale sparked protest from the public and angered municipal politicians, including Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, who has described himself as “pissed off.”
An petition opposing the plans has drawn some 4,000 signatures and about 100 vehicles rallied Sunday. “We are thrilled by that turnout,” said Shukin, who said the rally had two goals: ask the club to pause its sub-division application and come to the table to talk about alternatives.
Samantha Jubinville-Mah, a former employees of the club, said she has seen the positive effects of outdoor education in calling on the club to reverse its course.
“As a former employee, I still value what (the Boys and Girls Club) stands for,” she said. “It really goes against the values of the Boys and Girls Club.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria purchased the lot from the provincial government in 2004 for $1.6 million after having used it for outdoor programming since 1984 on a loan basis.
Rebecca Lang, club president, said earlier this year the sale of the lot allows the club to be “responsive and adaptive” to changing priorities. “This has been a considered decision,” she said. “Thousands of young people have enjoyed life-changing experiences at this property.”
The club said at the time that it had purchased the lot during a time of significant need for wilderness and nature programming aimed at youth going through the justice system. Changes in young offender laws and youth needs have since reshaped priorities.
The dispute will reach a new stage on March 15 when council holds a public hearing on a bylaw making it more difficult to subdivide the lot slated for sale, a move supported by Shukin and opposed by the club.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Victoria Foundation said in a press release it is “deeply disappointed” in council’s direction while remaining committed to serving children, youth and families in the region.
“For more than 35 years, we have done our utmost to support our community and remain good neighbours but today we feel blindsided,” said Wayne Jensen, a spokesperson for the foundation board.
The release said that the land use amendment (which stands at second reading) would significantly devalue the land by restricting future usage.
“We had previously stated that a future sale was a long way from being realized, thereby allowing sufficient time for interested parties to consider their purchasing options, while preserving the value of the land,” Jensen said.
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