Metchosin backed the Capital Regional District’s plan to borrow $25 million for buying new parkland, despite reservations from Mayor John Ranns.
During the Aug. 22 council meeting, Ranns said a similar pitch had come to the CRD before when he was board chair in the ’90s and that the loan could mean the CRD’s ability to buy parkland in the future is hobbled by interest payments.
The CRD board gave three readings to a bylaw approving the loan on July 13, after it had been included in the organization’s 2022 to 2026 financial plan, with $5 million a year in spending planned in each of the five years covered by the plan, which will be added to the money still in the land acquisition fund, totalling around $6 million.
Paying back the loan would cost an average household $3 a year over 15 years, based on the current Municipal Finance Authority’s interest rates.
The loan signals a new approach from the acquisition fund, which the CRD said will allow it to “purchase land that would otherwise be unattainable on a pay-as-you-go savings model,” according to its website.
The CRD estimates the loan will “create a revenue stream that can be used to service up to $50 million of land purchases over 15 years.”
Coun. Andy MacKinnon said recent land purchases like the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park, the Green Belt and the watershed catchment areas would be looked back on as visionary by future generations.
“I can’t imagine a more important thing for the CRD to invest public funds in than the protection of green spaces for future generations,” MacKinnon said during the Metchosin council meeting.
Although MacKinnon did share Ranns’ concerns about moving away from the acquisition fund.
Ranns said the acquisition fund would ensure residents’ money was going towards buying parks, not paying down interest on a loan. MacKinnon agreed but said the loan was a better system for buying parkland than having nothing.
Ranns noted there may be the option of returning to the acquisition fund if the loan bylaw gets rejected – Ranns sits on the CRD parks committee – but couldn’t comment on whether it was likely or not.
Ultimately, Metchosin council passed consent for the bylaw with Ranns opposed.
In order for the CRD to adopt the bylaw, municipal consent is required from two-thirds of participants, including all 13 member municipalities and the three electoral areas.