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Rally planned to oppose sale of school district land for new hospice

Opponents of land sale don't want to see building on green space
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From left, Soren Henrich, Andrea Gleichauf, Leigh Urquhart, Rob Vanzella, Deanna Pfeifer, Judy Dryden and Al Lubkowski are holding a rally Sunday to protest a plan to sell land next to the former Richmond School to Victoria Hospice for a new building. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

As the Greater Victoria School Board prepares to make a decision Monday on the sale of school land for a new Victoria Hospice building, opponents are planning a rally on Sunday in hopes of keeping the area green.

The proposal is to sell two acres of land next to the former Richmond Elementary at 2780 Richmond Rd. to the Victoria Hospice Society for $2.5 million. The land borders Bowker Creek and is separated from the rest of the school site by a stand of trees.

A poster for the rally, planned for 1-2 p.m. Sunday at the school, says the green space and school land should be saved for kids, recreation, creek access and restoration for fish and wildlife, and flood mitigation.

“Our message is that you do not build on undeveloped land in our urban core — you build on developed land,” said Deanna Pfeifer, one of the rally organizers.

Densification will happen but it should not “chip away at green space,” said Pfeifer, who was involved in the successful effort to preserve a nearby area off Kings Road bordering the creek.

School board chairman Ryan Painter said that among the 30 people who attended an online board meeting Wednesday to collect more public input on the issue there were both supporters and opponents of the sale.

“What will happen now is the board will take in that feedback.”

The board is scheduled to ­consider the third and final reading of the required bylaw at its Monday meeting, and Painter said he is expecting more debate.

Victoria Hospice, which has been part of the community for over 40 years, is currently in an aging area of the Royal Jubilee Hospital precinct. A new hospice facility at the site would include grief support, community ­education and other programs.

Hospice society chief executive Kevin Harter said the search for a new site has been going on for about 15 years, and the school land is a good choice in part because it’s close to Royal Jubilee Hospital. The new facility could eventually mean a complete move from the hospital grounds.

“We’re feeling positive about things,” he said, adding taking care of Bowker Creek is an important goal.

“It’s a beautiful resource for the community and you want to make sure you treat it right.”

The proposed land sale follows the October sale of about 7.5 acres of land from the 25-acre grounds of Lansdowne Middle School’s north campus for $15 million to the Conseil scolaire francophone del la Colombie-Britannique — the French-language school district in B.C.

The land will be used for a new French-language school.

Monday’s meeting will be online and starts at 7:30 p.m. Go to sd61.bc.ca for viewing details.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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