BC Hydro plans to offer the chunk of land between Kings Road and Haultain Street to the District of Saanich.
When and how much the initial offering price would be for the 5.5 acres are yet to be determined. Any price figures will be kept behind closed doors by Saanich council as it handles all land acquisitions in camera.
However, there is good reason to believe that Saanich is interested, said Rebecca Sterritt, a neighbour who helped organize more than 200 people for a Sept. 16 Kings Road block party. The party also served as a rally to have either Saanich or the CRD purchase the land and preserve it as a park.
“We have five of the current councillors saying they’re supportive of the [Hydro land] being acquired and preserved, plus candidates,” Sterritt said. “Most have said they are supportive.”
Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro community relations, said the official liquidation process of the land has moved from offering it to crown corporations to First Nations, and will now be offered to local municipal governments, which could include the CRD.
“We’ll be presenting local governments with a formal offer sometime soon,” Olynyk said. “If [Saanich] wants to negotiate [they can]. Keep in mind we act on behalf of ratepayers across the province, we do what’s best for ratepayers.”
In other words, don’t expect any discounts from BC Hydro to turn the land into a park. It is not zoned as park, though many believe Saanich council will not pass up the opportunity to purchase it. The central area of the lot is zoned P2 for utility zone (which permits such things as an ambulance or fire hall, or underground pump station) while the street fronts along both Kings and Haultain are zoned for single-family lots. Speculation based on the zoning means the property will be into the millions. The question is if Saanich can afford it.
“We’ve been arguing that CRD could contribute,” Sterritt said. “Just because it hasn’t been done in the past doesn’t mean it can’t be done now.”
“For a lot of people who use this park daily, it’s a central issue for the upcoming [Oct. 20 election],” Sterritt said.
Sterritt said organizers of the “Save Kings Park” group (note it is not a park) will be sending a note to all 2,500 people who’ve signed the petition, many of them from Saanich, to tell them which councillors and mayoral candidates are in support of protecting it.
“We have support that goes beyond the acquisition,” Sterritt said. “LifeCycles Project has shown interest in having a community garden there, volunteers with the Bowker Creek initiative are excited, too.
“We have a deficit of green space,” she added. “This is a no-brainer, but at the end of the day we need that political will, it’s nice to see that building and growing.”