EDITORIAL: Recreation lands purchase requires debate

No question Greater Sooke needs more recreation land, but are taxpayers willing to open their wallets?

Sooke and Juan de Fuca electoral area residents have a big question to ask themselves this spring.

Do they want to secure recreation lands into the future?

The answer appears easy on the surface, but it comes with caveats.

Last week, the CRD approved a request from the Sooke and Electoral Area Parks and Recreation Commission, also known as SEAPARC, to go to referendum this spring to purchase 9.5 hectares of land located at 6518 Throup Rd. in Sooke.

In recent years, the property has supported a turf farm and more recently a par 3 golf course. The sale price of $1 million includes the cleared, manicured land, a five- bedroom home and miscellaneous equipment used to maintain the course.

Greater Sooke is maxed out when it comes to land for future recreation use. More to the point: there is none.

Last year when a youth baseball program started here, organizers quickly learned there was no dedicated baseball field in Sooke, and even if there was, no fields were available. The same problem faces existing leagues.

So, there is no point belabouring the issue that Sooke needs this land.

SEAPARC has offered up to $250,000 for the land purchase with voters asked to finance the remaining $750,000 over 15 years.

Juan de Fuca electoral area director and SEAPARC chairman Mike Hicks said the recreation commission could have bought the Throup Road property on its own, but instead decided that such major acquisition should be determined by residents through the referendum.

The question becomes are taxpayers willing to take on the extra tax burden?

Hicks points out money from retiring the pool debt will offset the loan for the Throup Road property, but that means taxpayers will get no break for their pocketbook. Like every municipality, Sooke will face major bills in the future that could add to the taxpayers’ burden.

And it’s why Sooke needs to approach the coming referendum with open eyes.