Afew weeks ago, North Saanich councillors deemed the former Sandown horse racing track area to be off limits when it came to considering higher density housing development.
It’s obvious, however, that consideration did not include potential commercial growth on a portion of the land. Council’s committee of the whole on Sept. 23 unanimously approved a preliminary plan to turn a portion of the property into commercial space — leaving the rest as agricultural land. In the process, North Saanich will have to put up additional agricultural land of its own in exchange for the proposed commercial site.
This project has been in the works for a couple years, since presented in 2012 by the Randall family, owners of Sandown, and Omicron Developments. Both council and the community at large are, in general, supportive of the move to finally do something with the vacant track and decaying outbuildings.
The plan is to create a shopping area off the highway in the industrial park. Omicron took this concept out to conventions to gauge the interest level of potential investors and tenants, should the project get off the ground. The return of the deal to North Saanich council — as well as the proponents’ willingness to pony up the estimated $700,000 to clean up the property — indicates there must be enough interest in the plan to make the effort worthwhile.
For North Saanich, it’s a step to resolving what’s to be done about the vacant land. The District, at this stage, appears to have saved a significant portion of it as a buffer zone and for public use. There has been talk that the land might one day be used for more agricultural purposes but it’s all just supposition for now.
There are bound to be some public misgivings about the use of the land for commercial purposes and not housing, which has been a hot local topic, but the proposal appears to be a compromise that heavily favours the community. That comes in the form of agricultural land and additional commercial taxes, should all the bricks fall into place.
Certainly, there are variables at play this early on, but the project appears to be a good deal for North Saanich.