The Capital Regional District (CRD) is about to pay $10 for the Panorama Recreation Centre lands.
North Saanich council Monday confirmed its plans to transfer the 6.4-hectare piece of property, subject to a notice of disposition which gives the public an opportunity to express its support or opposition. According to BC Assessment, the centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Dr., had an assessed value of $36.25 million with the land value at $7.394 million and the building itself accounting for the rest.
Councillors had agreed to the land transfer in principle during an in-camera meeting on April 11, with council reporting to the public during its May 2 meeting. The municipality, on May 3, also released a statement saying that recent changes in accounting standards for all levels of government in Canada prompted the property transfer. The issue will be back before council on May 16.
“As always, we welcome public participation at this (or any other) council meeting as an opportunity for the public to communicate their thoughts to council about the proposed land transfer,” said Erik Lambertson, North Saanich’s manager of communication.
He had said earlier that the municipality is unaware of any specific threshold of public opposition that must be met. “Neither a referendum nor alternate approval process, where either a majority vote or less than 10 per cent of electors are in opposition, apply to this situation,” he said. “These processes would be considered for the disposition of parkland or to borrow funds for the purchase of municipal land or a project such construction of a public safety building.”
The district is following the statutory process for the disposition of municipal lands by providing the public with notice, he added.
According to the release, the district has been leasing the property to the CRD for the operation of the recreation facility. New accounting standards starting this fiscal year would consider the facility retired following the end of the lease, triggering new financial obligations that would require the facility to raise user fees now to fund the future obligations.
“By transferring the Panorama property to the CRD, the District of North Saanich is providing the CRD security of land ownership associated with their facilities and avoids having to increase user fees to fund the reserve,” it reads.
According to North Saanich staff, the most recent lease agreement for the Panorama property was for a five-year term that had expired on September 30, 2018. The lease subsequently turned into a month-to-month arrangement and North Saanich and the Panorama Recreation Centre have been in negotiations around a new lease or purchase agreement since the lease flipped into the month-to-month tenancy.
A covenant would restrict the land use to parks and recreation purposes and the agreement gives North Saanich the right to buy back some of the undeveloped lands from the CRD for a public library for $10 over the next 20 years. The municipality also retains a right-of-first-refusal on any part of the property for $10.
The Peninsula Recreation Commission will continue to administer the Panorama Recreation Centre.
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