Saanich purchased the 62-acre Panama Flats last year. It will stay as is for the time being, until the municipality collects suggestions from the public on how the land can best be used. That input process isn't expected to happen now until late 2012 or 2013.

Saanich purchased the 62-acre Panama Flats last year. It will stay as is for the time being, until the municipality collects suggestions from the public on how the land can best be used. That input process isn't expected to happen now until late 2012 or 2013.

Panama Flats consultation won’t begin until late 2012, early 2013

Saanich will hire a third party to conduct public input process

The signs still hanging at Panama Flats may indicate the public isn’t welcome on the private land, but the 62-acre property is no longer private – it’s municipal property.

In February 2011 Saanich announced a deal worth $2.4 million to buy the agricultural property, used as a Colquitz River floodplain, from Island Berry Company Ltd. The transaction was completed in late 2011.

Mayor Frank Leonard says municipal crews have done no work on the land so far, and nothing was budgeted this year for work to happen. Instead, Leonard says it’s important that the public first be involved in a consultation process to help determine how to best make use of the land.

“Most of the work that’ll be done, in terms of public consultation, will be in 2013. (Staff is) in the homework phase right now,” he said.

The plan is to hire a third-party consultant to conduct the public input process.

“It’s early in that process, in terms of trying to get our heads around the varying interests that are out there … as far as what people think needs to get done for that area,” said Doug Henderson, director of parks and recreation. He said the consultant won’t be acquired until later this year.

Approximately one-third of the property is protected under the Agricultural Land Reserve, but Leonard told the News in 2011 he’d personally like to see more of the land protected.

At the time he anticipated discussions on the future of Panama Flats to revolve around natural parks and food security.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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