The Braefoot Community Association (BCA) was shocked to hear that after many years of leasing the Braefoot Park building, they need to find a new location as Saanich plans to take over early next year.
The BCA has used the building since the 1980s but, per a written statement on Dec. 16, the district intends to begin operating out of the building “to meet council and community priorities.”
“We’re just in shock,” said Lee Richardson, executive director of the BCA. “We’re still processing this.”
He said the BCA board was not consulted about the decision and found out on Dec. 16 – many BCA staff found out through a Saanich News article.
Saanich said the decision was made in response to the changing demands of the community and a need to “provide enhanced services for the community’s highly diverse population.”
Nathalie Dechaine, Saanich’s manager of community development and business systems, said space was already in demand for municipal services and community programs before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has created additional challenges.
She said the decision was not rushed and Saanich was already in the process of assessing various buildings owned by the municipality to determine the best use of space and fair access.The BCA’s lease agreement also expires on Dec. 31.
Richardson said Saanich had approached the board about renewing the lease for the next year over the summer.
“We feel like the rug’s getting pulled out from under us,” he said. “What’s going to happen to us and our community partners?”
He added that the decision will impact hundreds of people as the BCA currently offers childcare, care for adults with special needs and a number of community programs in the building. It would have been hard to find a new facility to suit the BCA’s needs before the pandemic, Richardson said.
In acknowledgment of the long-term relationship between Saanich and the BCA, the district has said it will support the community association in the transition to a new space by moving to a month-to-month lease. Saanich will also assist subtenants and amateur sports programs that use the park.
Once Saanich assumes operation of the building, Parks, Recreation and Community Services will manage all park activities and services through existing licences. The BCA and other community groups will still be able to access the facilities through permit applications.
Richardson isn’t sure how the BCA will move forward in the long term but said the first step will be to have an emergency board meeting this week to get a clearer picture of what’s going to happen.
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