Community garden warrants discussion

Re: Group pushes for community garden in Royal Oak, (News, June 12); and Saanich runs risk of no community garden, (Letters, June 19)

Re: Group pushes for community garden in Royal Oak, (News, June 12); and Saanich runs risk of no community garden, (Letters, June 19)

Why is it so difficult to have open discussion regarding a Royal Oak area community garden?

Mayor Frank Leonard reminds us that a particular property across West Saanich Road from Royal Oak shopping centre is zoned for commercial use.

Yet the mayor himself in 2008 (inaugural address) suggested the parcel could become a “naturescape” park (same zoning as community garden).  Saanich pursued the mayor’s suggestion by hiring Cityspaces consultants to draw plans for a park to present to residents (in January 2011).

The plans, coming from Saanich’s own consultants, would rezone the parcel.

Throughout 2011 area residents held community meetings, gathering over 1,000 hours of response to Saanich’s request.  Views were mostly positive about a nature-scape border along West Saanich Road and below the Fireside restaurant, with a terraced community garden in the interior, and a small heritage park area (recalling the historic railroad). Although this was supplied to Saanich, requests for discussion are refused.

The mayor comments that “Royal Oak (community association, ROCA) doesn’t support it” and the President of ROCA characterized members as “indifferent at best.”

Marsha Henderson’s letter describes a very different reality. Members of ROCA openly voted on May 30, 2012 as 17 to 3 in favour of asking Saanich to consider the community proposal.

There’s more. Forty-four members of ROCA wrote letters and signed petitions asking for consideration. Two members wrote letters opposed to the idea. Beyond ROCA, 290 residents, 45 local businesses, the community church, Lions club and others joined the request for discussion of garden and park (submitted Nov. 15, 2012).  These views are hardly “indifferent at best” and certainly not “firmly opposed.”

The subject needs a little daylight. That’s all the area residents, local businesses and members of ROCA are asking.

Greg Holloway

Saanich