North Saanich plans to resume the planning process for a new library in the near future.
While the current COVID-19 pandemic has put the planning process on hold, a spokesperson for the municipality says it is looking to schedule a public hearing on the plan in the “near” future.
The proposed hearing will allow the public to comment on two related items: the municipality’s application to exclude almost 16 acres of the Panorama Recreation Centre lot from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and proposed changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP).
These OCP changes would void the requirement of including “an equal or greater amount of land” to the ALR in exchange for the land to be excluded if the land has “been approved by the ALC for non-farm uses since 1975, and that is used solely for public recreation and community uses.”
While staff support the general practice of replacing excluded land in support of agriculture, the municipality currently lacks land that could replenish the excluded lot. The revisions would “primarily” apply to the site of the Panorama Recreation Centre, but also offer flexibility.
“Once a public hearing has been held, the application will be forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for their review and decision,” said Rebecca Penz, North Saanich’s communications manager.
If the ALC approves the exclusion, the municipality would then be able to subdivide the lot from the parent lot, thereby allowing the establishment of the library on a separate, transferable title of land.
North Saanich council pushed forward with current plans for a library near the recreation centre earlier this spring, after the ALC had rejected non-farm use of the site for a library in April 2019. But if the commission said no then, it also signalled that it could be favourable toward an exclusion application.
Previous plans have identified the northwest corner of the current recreation centre as the preferred location for the new library, which according to a March staff report, “would complement the existing community facilities on site and would be accessible to residents of North Saanich, Sidney, and Central Saanich.”
But if North Saanich has pursued plans for a library for some time, the municipality also want to keep its options open, as the staff report suggests.
Regardless of whether a new library appears on the site, the proposed exclusion of the lot would “remove any further restrictions related to agriculture, to the benefit of any future recreational development of the property,” it reads.
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