OUR VIEW: Much to gain on Sandown
With so much common ground between residents, politicians and supporters of agriculture, there should be no reason why the redevelopment of the Sandown Racetrack should not happen.
All sides on the issue appear to agree that new, active agricultural land would be a great addition to North Saanich, already a largely agrarian community. As well, for a majority of council — and for some of the district’s citizens — the potential for a new commercial zone adds some much-needed diversity to the tax base.
The resurrection of the Sandown proposal — to create a 12-acre commercial site and 83-acre agricultural property — will set into motion a new rounds of negotiations between the Randall family, who own the property, and the municipality, which would take over the 83 acres. There are barriers to a successful outcome — the costs, the use of new farmland, how the commercial property will someday look and how the district and the Agricultural Land Commission will get along. Yet with much to gain in the long run, council will have to find a way to get the most benefit for the community, without letting their own hang-ups get in the way.
All parties involved are not rushing headlong into negotiations, however. There is still plenty left to talk about. Even though almost a year has gone by since the district halted the process in April of 2012, the ideas, the needs and the concerns must be addressed in full, public forums that leave no doubt about a transparent process. Many of the costs are already known and aspects of the property transfer are out there. While much of the formal, unwieldy negotiations cannot be done in public, citizens must be a part of this outcome.
Without their support, Sandown could again only go so far.