Sandown Race Track

Candidates' Records on Sandown Agricultural Land

The Phased Development Agreement for Sandown finally passed Council on Nov. 3, 2014.  It has been the vision of many that the agricultural land that would be given to the municipality could be once again returned to food production and the support of farming.  

While the district has been clear that they would not start exploring what could be done on the Sandown lands until the land has actually been transferred to the district, possibilities could include:

·      leasing land at market rates to young, new, or existing farmers;
·      providing space for an “incubator farm”;
·      making allotment gardens plots available for rent;
·      providing a site for a permanent farm market;
·      providing an area for school-age children to learn how to grow food;
·      or other appropriate agricultural uses. 

The management of the land could be taken over by a third party, removing the municipality from that role.

The first task is to ensure that the new Council comes up with a workable plan to use the land for the common good.  The land cannot just sit there unused as a political football.  For this, we believe Council should strike a task force of genuinely independent qualified people with clear terms of reference and a strict timetable to consult with the community, and explore options for the use of the agricultural lands on Sandown.

But for that to happen, we have to elect a Mayor and Council who will support that vision.

With the election only days away, we wanted to let you know the candidates whom we’ve identified as being supportive of agricultural pursuits on the 83 acres of soon-to-be municipally-owned land – and those who haven’t.

·      Mayor Alice Finall has initiated and championed the Sandown proposal from its inception. 

·      Celia Stock has worked with Mayor Finall on Council to try to move the agricultural vision of Sandown forward. 

The other independent candidates who have spoken in favour of exploring how agriculture might be pursued on that land include:

·      Heather Gartshore,
·      Geoff Orr,
·      Jack Thornburgh and
·      Mayoral candidate Dorothy Hartshorne.

By contrast, independent candidate Murray Weisenberger has stated publicly that he is not in favour of ‘landbanking’, and believes that we should “let business handle it.”

All the Team North Saanich members have expressed either reluctance or opposition to any kind of creative thinking as to how the Sandown agricultural lands might be used to increase food production and/or support farmers.

The three incumbent Team North Saanich councillors (McBride, Mearns and Browne) have shown little or no support for agriculture during their 2011-2014 tenure.

More specifically:

·      The incumbent Team North Saanich members have all talked about putting housing on Sandown;
·      Dunstan Browne (and Coun. Ted Daly) made sure that they kept the possibility of housing on Sandown open, even though they didn't vote to move forward with it "at that time."  "That will come" said Browne;
·      Conny McBride has said that she can't support agriculture as an industry;
·      Craig Mearns, a self-described developer, has said, in relation to the Sandown discussion, that “we can get land out of the ALR -- we did it in the Fraser Valley" (then he developed it);
·      Dunstan Browne has talked about how the ALC shouldn't be able to tell “us” what we can do with "our land";
·      Dunstan Browne has said that “nothing will be done for years on that land”;
·      Team North Saanich said that the District should not be competing with farmers, nor do Craig Mearns and Conny McBride support any kind of what they call  "socialized farming". Mearns stated at the Oct 30 All Candidates Meeting that he “won't support a social farming boondoggle".
·      Jack McLintock has indicated that he believes there should be no tax money put toward farming on Sandown, and that the district should “get out of the business of creating business.”
·      Steve Pearce (a commercial insurance broker married to one of the Pendrays of Pendray Farms) said at the Oct. 30 All Candidates Meeting that he thinks farming is a grind, and is concerned about other farmers being put in jeopardy through agriculture happening on Sandown.

Farmland Demand Does Exist 
Published in Peninsula News Review 
 Oct 29, 2014  
Re: Farm land trust proposal planted. 
Coun. Daly’s assertion “there’s no demand to farm the land coming out of (the Sandown deal)” is simply 
The truth is that council has never asked. When the Sandown deal was before council in early 2012, a dozen or 
more young farmers from local post-secondary agriculture programs implored Council to move forward with 
the deal, because they couldn’t find any affordable local farmland to lease.  A local farmer told me that he had 
been unable to find land to lease because most property owners were not interested in a minimum five-year 
lease in case they wanted to sell. 
I was also told by a District staffer a farmer had offered to lease the full 85 acres. A young farming couple said 
they were interested in leasing Sandown land while others wanted community garden plots. The Farmlands 
Trust proposed to manage the lands for the District and almost all the 400 people at a public meeting 
organized by the Friends of Sandown Community Farm raised their hands in support when asked if they 
wanted to see a municipally-owned community farm on Sandown. 
All this was ignored by Daly and Team North Saanich when they voted against the proposal. A year later when 
the deeply flawed and highly contentious Housing Strategy Implementation Plan was presented to council, it 
recommended as many as 60 units per acre on Sandown.  While council voted not to proceed at that time with 
that recommendation and the equally questionable recommendation to put higher densities on the 
agricultural lands at McTavish Rd. West, Daly and Coun. Browne bent over backwards to make sure the 
possibility of developing those areas be left open. 
Team North Saanich has made it clear they’d like to see housing on Sandown. Farming doesn’t fit their 
development agenda, so it’s no surprise they want voters to believe there’s no demand for affordable 
Bernadette Greene 
North Saanich 
Sandown Racetrack Proposal

From the Municipal website -

On May 25, 2011 the District received an application from the owners of the Sandown Racetrack to rezone 12 acres of the 95 acre site for a range of commercial uses. This application was made at the request of the District. A key part of the proposal is that the owners will give the remaining 83 acres of the property to the Municipality for agricultural purposes and the 12 acres taken out of the ALR for the commercial development would be replaced by 12.05 acres of municipal land being added to the ALR so there will be no net loss of ALR land in the District.

The District has now begun its consultation process and this involves community discussions, receiving advice from its Advisory Commissions and discussions with other agencies. So far a great deal of support has been expressed. In fact the Victoria Airport Authority has offered to donate topsoil from its lands to the District for improving the agricultural capability of the Sandown property.

In addition to the potential value of the land to the community for agricultural and food securing, we also anticipate that the value of the 83 acres (based on BC Assessment Authority valuations) would be about $5,803,000.00 and the value of existing leases on the property would also contribute about $173,000.00 over the term of the leases (up to 2017). This means the District would receive an asset worth approximately $6,000,000.00. In addition, a conservative estimate of the property taxes that may be generated from the 12 acres of commercial land once developed is approximately $371,000 which is $348,459.00 per year more than the current $22,541 of municipal taxes currently paid.

Mayor Finall on the Sandown property
The District is though, undertaking a number of investigations (environmental, traffic,  planning, etc.) to provide enough information to Council and the public so an informed decision can be made on the application. There will clearly be costs associated with owning the property. The magnitude of these costs cannot be determined until Council completes consultations with stakeholders on how the 83 acres will be used. However, District staff are working on preparing a business case which will provide some expense information. We will provide this on our District website as soon as we have it ready.

In terms of process, the next steps include conducting necessary investigations, preparing and considering bylaws, sending referrals to agencies like the Agricultural Land Commission and the Capital Regional District, First Nations, Town of Sidney and the Ministry of Transportation. After bylaws are introduced and given readings, there will be a Public Hearing. This may occur sometime in the fall.

Some useful links:

Municipal Sandown web page

Staff Report - July 2011

Staff Report - March 2012

Feedback Form for North Saanich Municipality

Omicron - Eagle Creek Village, View Royal

OUR VIEW: Sandown has potential

It took a couple of years and a lot of wrangling over the details, and now the proposed redevelopment of the Sandown horse racing track and grounds looks to be moving ahead.

All in all, it’s a good deal for North Saanich. The municipality retains a decent chunk of agricultural land and the property owners — the Randall family — are able to create a new commercial space on 12 acres close to the Pat Bay Highway. An estimated 156,000 square feet of retail and office space, Sandown Commons remains a few years away from completion — any ground breaking is not expected until late next year at the earliest — and that will give residents time to adjust to this new reality.

Proponents of the change are hoping the new commercial development will not be a drain on nearby communities or on the businesses in downtown Sidney.

Representatives of development firm Omicron, overseeing the project, have said they hope it will increase the overall traffic to the Peninsula — meaning everyone has the chance to benefit.

Organizations like the Sidney Business Improvement Area are well-placed to take advantage of more visitors to the area with their focus on the people, products and stories behind Sidney’s business community.

While the retail sector looks to grow, there is plenty of agricultural potential next door in the remaining 83 acres of land.

There still needs to be extensive work to remediate the land and clear the structures, but people are already mulling over ideas — and have been ever since the project was floated two years ago.

North Saanich is promising public consultation on what to do with the 83 acres they have to play with and there’s plenty of time to work out the highest and best use of that agricultural land.

Sandown commercial project a step closer

North Saanich Councillor Elsie McMurphy, right, looks over the site photographs and plans for the proposed commercial development at the former Sandown horse racing track. - Steven Heywood/News staff
North Saanich Councillor Elsie McMurphy, right, looks over the site photographs and plans for the proposed commercial development at the former Sandown horse racing track.
— image credit: Steven Heywood/News staff
A $40 million commercial development at the Sandown horse racing track in North Saanich is expected to be debated by local politicians on Monday, March 3.

Omicron, the development firm overseeing the project, has held two open houses this month on their plans for 4.85 hectares (12 acres) of the 38-hectare (85-acre) property. For one of North Saanich’s largest developments in recent years, there was a light turnout of between 60 to 70 people at each of the open houses.

Omicron spokesperson Peter Laughlin said, however, that people gave good feedback on their plans.

“The largest group of people who have been here are horse people,” he said.

They have offered suggestions including making the layout of the development reminiscent of horse stalls, to having hitching posts included in the design plans.

Others have asked for parking that would make it easier for people to walk to and from the shops on site —something that Laughlin said is being worked into the plans.

While Laughin could still not say which retailers have expressed interest in taking up some of the 40,000 square feet of proposed commercial space at the site, he did say that the recent news of the Sandown project and the Jesken Town Centre in Central Saanich coming on stream, has sparked more interest overall.

The open houses, Laughlin added, were to explain potential land uses only. The rezoning of the property still has to take place at the municipal council level.

On March 3, Laughlin said he expects the project will get a third reading and would then be able to proceed to the development permit stage. This, he continued, allows the developer to make specific site plans and would mean taking them to additional public open houses.

Omicron and the owners of the land, the Randal Family, have agreed to pay around $750,000 for land remediation — one of North Saanich’s main requirements for the project to proceed.

North Saanich also is in the process of swapping its own land to the ALR to offset the loss of the commercial area.

Voters need critical thinking skills

Re: Grand visions require deep pockets, Nov. 20.

Mr. Upward’s letter is a rehash of the same flawed opinion we’ve already read, that the Group of Four “saved the taxpayers $750,000”. They also used that high degree of business savvy to spare taxpayers millions of dollars of future new tax revenue. It is politically convenient but deliberately misleading for Mr. Upward and others to persistently ignore the substantial revenue side of this agreement.

Accounting for both the expenses and revenues together, the original Sandown project was expected to break even by 2017 and thereafter perpetually return $347,000 of fresh tax revenue to the District each year.

As Councillor [Ted] Daly noted on his Facebook page, the prospects of reviving this proposal at the time of its cancellation were very slim indeed. With this admission, the Group of Four revealed the real scope of their financial blunder and their callous disregard for the many benefits this proposal would have provided. Luckily, for them and us, Mr. Randall returned.

Voters should also remember there was substantial public support for the first proposed Sandown agreement. Furthermore, if the Group of Four was really looking out for the whole community and saving money was really a priority, they would have pursued the generous offer from the Farmlands Trust to manage and fully fund the reclamation.

Mr. Upward’s account cannot be seen as an attempt to inform but rather an exercise in political axe-grinding through the suppression of information.

There are indeed many things to remember when casting votes next year. Voters will need to use their critical thinking skills to sort through a persistent flow of misinformation from people who are not necessarily representing the community’s best interests.

Springfield Harrison
North Saanich