Panama Flats clears last major hurdle to becoming public land

The $2.4-million deal between Saanich and Island Berry, which has owned Panama Flats since 2008, includes $910,000 cash from municipal reserves and two separate parcels of land.

All the conditions, it seems, have been met to allow Panama Flats to officially become municipal land in the coming weeks.

The last delay was dealt with Tuesday night when council approved a rezoning application for land exchanged with Island Berry Company as part of the deal to acquire Panama Flats.

“There are still legal transactions to be finalized, but this certainly means that the title will become ours later this year,” Mayor Frank Leonard said.

Council supported the subdivision and rezoning of a 1.4-acre parcel of agricultural land on Cherry Road to allow nine single-family homes.

Some residents of the neighbourhood voiced concerns that traffic is already rampant without adding an additional 30-some-odd cars expected with the development.

“I don’t see us changing (the traffic problem at Wilkinson and Interurban roads) over night. I see us addressing it, I see us capping it, but I see it as more of an ongoing issue,” said Coun. Lief Wergeland. “What we need to focus on is public safety.”

Councillors mentioned such amenities as a new sidewalk and a pedestrian-controlled crosswalk. A traffic light also needs to be installed to improve the traffic and pedestrian situation, they said.

“These people need proper pedestrian access. I hope we can find money in our budget soon to give them some sort of amenity like this,” said Coun. Paul Gerrard.

It was unanimously acknowledged, however, that the acquisition of Panama Flats, a 62-acre floodplain between Carey and Interurban roads, is worth moving the rezoning application forward without concrete traffic management plans in place.

The $2.4-million deal between Saanich and Island Berry, which has owned Panama Flats since 2008, includes $910,000 cash from municipal reserves and two separate parcels of land.

“This is as significant as predecessors accomplished with Swan Lake (and) Rithet’s Bog. This is something that generations to come will take for granted as a municipal asset,” Leonard said. “People won’t even think that it was ever anything but a municipal asset, but at one time it wasn’t.”

Leonard expects the deal to be done later this fall.

Decisions on a public process to receive input on Panama Flats’ future won’t be made until after November’s municipal election. The new council will hold its first meeting Dec. 5.

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