Saanich considers plan to borrow for new park near Royal Jubilee Hospital

Saanich councillors will give final reading Monday to a bylaw to allow borrowing for the $5.5-million purchase of green space bordering Royal Jubilee Hospital — expensive parkland now but invaluable green space for generations to come, says Mayor Fred Haynes.

Councillors agreed last month to enter a conditional purchase agreement with B.C. Hydro, the owner of the 2.2-hectare parcel in the 1800 block of Kings Road.

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They are considering a financial plan bylaw amendment and loan-authorization bylaw to buy the land. Both bylaws passed third reading last week.

“This is natural state green space in the middle of a very urban area — how valuable is that?” Haynes said.

Saanich plans toborrow up to $4 million, and transfer $1.5 million from reserve funds.

Map - Kings Park SaanichCouncillors hope to raise $2.75 million to offset the cost. They plan to approach the provincial and federal governments, the Capital Regional District and neighbouring municipalities of Oak Bay and Victoria.

Community groups have also offered to raise money for the land purchase.

“We’ll have to talk to the neighbourhood next,” Haynes said.

“I do believe the community will come up with the $2.75 million.”

Haynes said there is a “safety valve” in case the municipality is unable to raise the money: They could sell a portion of the property to recuperate some of the cost.

Once it is known how much of the $4 million is needed, “we will be locking in for long-term borrowing,” said Valla Tinney, Saanich’s director of finance. “We have five years from the time this bylaw passes to bring on long-term debt.”

Tinney told councillors interest on borrowing $4 million over the maximum 30-year loan period would be “just over $2 million.”

The municipality expects to take possession of the tree- and shrub-covered property at 2661 Richmond Rd. and 1843 and 1845 Kings Rd. in the fall.

B.C. Hydro first offered the land, long called Kings Park, to the provincial government, Crown agencies and First Nations.

Rebecca Sterritt and her husband, Adam Kreek, who campaigned to preserve the land as green space, have committed to helping raise money for the purchase.

Sterritt has suggested connecting the park to the neighbouring hospital grounds with a wheelchair-accessible pathway and picnic tables.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Richard Watts

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