Agricultural zoning a hurdle for search-and-rescue base

The future of one of East Sooke's most historic properties is in the hands of the Capital Regional District and the Agricultural Land Commission.

Glenairley, a picturesque house on more than 10 hectares fronting the Sooke basin, was sold in October to Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue by the Sisters of St. Ann for use as a training base.

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"The nuns really wanted it to go to RCM-SAR. They think it's a wonderful organization," said Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca electoral area regional director.

The search-and-rescue group plans to use Glenair-ley as the head office and training base for volunteer members from all over B.C., with six to 12 trainees at a time taking advantage of the proximity to rough water.

However, the property is zoned agricultural. The CRD board will decide today whether to send an application for part of the property to be excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve to the land commission with a recommendation for approval.

The application is for less than two hectares for the training centre and is the same footprint previously used by the Sisters of St. Ann, Hicks said.

The remaining 80 per cent of the property would be used for agriculture.

The search-and-rescue use would be good for the community, as it brings people in to the area, and good for British Columbians as the organization saves about 300 lives a year and responds to about 700 incidents, Hicks said.

Glenairley was built as a family home in 1910 by Alexander Gillespie and later used as a resort. It was bought in 1957 as a retreat for the Sisters of St. Ann.

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