Backhoes and dump trucks at work on the Panama Flats last August. The land

Backhoes and dump trucks at work on the Panama Flats last August. The land

Saanich buys 62-acre Panama Flats for $2.4 million

In a surprise move this week, Saanich purchased Panama Flats, a 62-acre agricultural property on the Colquitz River floodplain. Mayor Frank Leonard told the News the $2.4 million deal will turn the land – between Carey and Interurban roads – into a “real gem for the community.”

“We’ll go through a whole planning process to determine what should be park, what should be trail, what should be habitat, what should be floodplain,” he said.

The deal, in the works since November, was struck with Island Berry Company Ltd. The company’s plan had been to grow cranberries on the site, part of which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“Saanich residents are very fortunate Island Berry enabled this … asset to become part of the public land trust,” Leonard said, noting the property is valuable for environmental reasons as well as for floodplain management and recreational and agricultural use.

“It’s important for municipal infrastructure that you have floodplain for capacity issues to avoid flooding elsewhere,” Leonard said. “A lot of the land we consider to be part of the floodplain is private property. And they consider it property that could be actively farmed and that’s a significant dispute.”

He cited a lengthy process that began in 2008 when Island Berry purchased the property and began bringing in fill. Saanich sought an injunction that was unsuccessful.

“We were told if we wanted to succeed on the protection of the floodplain, we would have to go to trial,” Leonard said. Instead, Saanich approached Island Berry and asked if they would sell.

Wayne Hopkins, co-owner of Island Berry, said the company feels the lands are “better served with public stewardship.”

“When we sat down and weighed all the benefits for the community that Saanich was talking about, the potential they could do with the property versus what we were doing, we just figured it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Island Berry purchased the land for about $1.8 million. Hopkins said the company’s put a lot of work into the site since buying it, including recently digging out the cranberry bogs.

“It’s setback in relation to our agricultural plans, but we’re confident another opportunity will come forward,” Hopkins said.

He acknowledged some problems that arose after purchasing the property, in terms of the lands and neighbourhood mindset, that played a role in the decision to sell Panama Flats.

“If we would’ve known how difficult agriculture could be (in Panama Flats) we may have rethought (buying it),” Hopkins said.

Just how Saanich will develop Panama Flats has yet to be worked out. Community consultation will help determine how it should be used, Leonard says. There are still possibilities for agriculture — including allotment gardens — so long as it preserves the integrity of the floodplain.

The deal with Island Berry includes $910,000 cash from municipal reserves and an exchange of surplus lands.

A property owned by Saanich at Carey and Cherry roads will allow for a nine-lot subdivision, while land at Carey and Roy roads will be divided into three lots.

The municipality and council can justify the purchase because of “the uniqueness of the property for its Colquitz River and floodplain infrastructure,” Leonard said.

“We have a good balance sheet that gives us flexibility that lets us take advantage of a unique opportunity like this,” Leonard said.

The deal was important for Saanich to successfully moderate water flows and to reduce flooding risks in the area.

It’s estimated to cost $300,000 to restore the habitat, improve trails and manage stormwater in the flats.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is a campaign that connects Canadian grandmothers with grandmothers in Africa who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Here, they are in Kakuto, Uganda in 2018. (Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar photo)
Greater Victoria and African grandmothers celebrate solidarity with virtual concert

Grandmothers to Grandmothers supports women in Africa caring for children orphaned by AIDS

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Driver who crashed into Uptown Walmart likely suffering mental health crisis, police say

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read