Saanich is seeking a consultant to create a plan for Panama Flats

Saanich moves on creating plan for Panama Flats

Progress is imminent at Saanich's Panama Flats, as the municipality this week announced it is looking for a consultant

Progress is imminent at Saanich’s Panama Flats, as the municipality this week announced it was looking for a consultant to help develop a 20-year vision for the 25-hectare parcel of land.

The request for proposals, which expires Sept. 4, indicates Saanich has a $45,000 budget to spend on the plan, which is set to be implemented by 2014.

“We don’t want to go through another season of it lying idle because we don’t have the staff available to work up a plan,” said Mayor Frank Leonard, adding that bringing in external resources allows the plan to be created sooner, rather than later.

The RFP indicates that any plan to convert the Flats to a public greenspace needs to account for its role as a floodplain, a salmon-bearing habitat (Colquitz River) and a rare ecosystem, and should include recreation and trail options, as well as a potential for community gardens.

Public engagement is roughly scheduled to begin taking place in late 2012 or early 2013.

“The big piece (from the consultant) is going to be helping support the public process that we’ll want to undertake to make sure we hear the various comments that exist out there,” said Doug Henderson, director of Saanich parks and recreation. “It’ll be helping get us to a conclusion that we consider valid, in terms of what the community will support for whatever Panama Flats will be in the future.”

The District of Saanich purchased Panama Flats in February 2011 in a $2.4-million deal with Island Berry Company Ltd. At the time, Leonard said the municipality saw value in the property’s floodplain management, recreation and agricultural opportunities.

In September 2011, Saanich announced a separate $7.2-million land deal to acquire the Capital Regional District’s portion of Haro Woods.

Leonard said plans for that land acquisition are still going ahead, but hinge upon the CRD successfully getting a small parcel of their land (which it will retain) rezoned to allow for a sewage pump station and underground attenuation tank.

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