Central Saanich expropriates land for civic facilities, after failing to reach deal with owner

City expropriates land

The District of Central Saanich is expropriating a parcel of land on Hovey Road to redevelop municipal facilities in need of an upgrade.

The district said in a statement that it tried multiple times to purchase the 0.9-hectare property, at the corner of Hovey Road and Wallace Drive, for market value before taking the step of expropriating the land.

Expropriation was considered a last resort, the district said.

It’s a legal process that allows governments to acquire privately owned land to build or make necessary changes to infrastructure. The land owner is paid fair market value as determined by an independent third-party appraiser.

The district’s appraised value of the land is $3.1 million.

Central Saanich said it has been exploring the feasibility of redeveloping its civic buildings since 2006, and first tackled building a new fire station on Keating Cross Road, a project that was completed in 2013.

The building at 1903 Mount Newton Cross Rd. containing the municipal hall, fire station and police station needs to be replaced or undergo major upgrades in the next five years to address seismic and accessibility issues and meet “post-disaster” standards, the district said in an announcement posted to its website.

It’s a challenge to find vacant land for facilities because about 60 per cent of land in the district is within the Agricultural Land Reserve, said chief administrative officer Christine Culham.

The current municipal facilities are 50 to 60 years old and beyond their useful life, she said. They don’t meet current requirements for accessibility or seismic upgrading, and they have asbestos, making rehabilitation difficult, Culham said. The existing buildings will likely be torn down.

The land being expropriated is across the street from Centennial Park on a main road serviced by transit, making it a “rare parcel” in a key location, the district said.

It’s about 800 metres from the current municipal hall.

“With limited bare land within the Urban Containment Boundary, the district determined this property is a critical acquisition for the future of the community,” Mayor Ryan Windsor said in the statement.

Windsor said he was not able to answer questions about the current owner or specific plans for the site, because the process of expropriation restricts the information that can be shared publicly.

In 2014, the district considered selling roughly 1.2 hectares of its property at 1903 Mount Newton Cross Rd. Council decided to expedite repayment of debt for the new fire station and postpone redevelopment until the debt was closer to being paid off. The debt is expected to be repaid in 2025.

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