Boys and Girls Club sticking to plan to sell part of Metchosin property

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria is sticking to its plan to sell a portion of its 98-acre Metchosin property to fund more services for youth and families.

Rebecca Lang, president of the organization’s foundation, said in a letter to Metchosin’s mayor and council on Monday that a plan to subdivide and sell 40 acres of the property will go ahead, but provided no timeline.

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She indicated the land could be sold to a buyer that wants to preserve the property in its natural state.

“Over the years, we have referred to this land, its trees and water as unique, magical and environmentally special. That remains unchanged,” Lang said in the letter, noting that while a protective covenant was discussed 14 years ago, it never occurred.

“Recently, we have heard indirect interest in a land ­conservation agency, community group or municipal/regional ­government potentially ­purchasing the property for preservation, but we have no direct knowledge of this.”

Lang said the group’s “transparent” process means any effort to preserve the property has “a fair and equal purchasing opportunity.”

She stressed the property has not yet been subdivided or listed for sale, and the club is not looking at any offers from prospective buyers. The 40-acre portion is zoned for eight five-acre lots.

The Sierra Club of British Columbia indicated Monday it was interested in talking with the club about purchasing the land for conservation and recreation, but on Wednesday issued a statement saying the information was provided "in error."

The group added: "Sierra Club of B.C. is not in the business of purchasing land, and has no intention or ability to purchase this property."

The entire 98-acre property at 3900 Metchosin Rd. had an assessed value of $5,177,100 as of July 1, 2020, according to B.C. Assessment — up from $4,879,000 the previous year.

The club acquired the property from the provincial government in 2004 for $1.63 million, considered fair market value. The assessed value for the former farm in 2002, when the province was considering a transfer of the property, was $1.1 million, including land and buildings.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns sent a letter last week to Lang asking the club to withdraw its subdivision plans and explore opportunities to preserve the 40-acre parcel in its natural state.

An online petition against the sale launched by more than a dozen former Boys and Girls Club employees has collected about 3,500 signatures.

In his letter, Ranns noted the municipality has provided $210,020 in tax exemptions to the Boys and Girls Club over the past 17 years “with the understanding [the land] would be preserved for public benefit, specifically for outdoor youth recreation and education ­programs.”

Lang, however, disagreed, saying in her letter that when the foundation purchased the property from the provincial government in 2004, there were no conditions that it keep the property intact in perpetuity.

“We are thankful for Metchosin granting our non-profit organization annual ­permissive tax exemptions that, as you know, were based on our annual commitment to child and youth programming which have always been delivered in full,” Lang said.

“We have also fulfilled our commitment to the ­community by welcoming individuals, schools, service organizations and biodiversity groups to ­experience the property. Apart from your recent letter, there has never been any suggestion linking municipal tax measures with any ‘understanding’­ regarding the long-term use of the property.”

Lang said changing needs of youth in the region are placing new demands on the organization.

“Although quality out-of-school programming, summer camps and youth outreach remain essential for the Boys and Girls Club, the organization is increasingly stepping in to offer new programs and supports to address some of the greatest challenges facing children, youth and families including homelessness prevention, mental health support and substance use services.”

Note to readers: This story has been updated with new information about the Sierra Club's position.

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