The District of Sooke’s purchase of five acres of undeveloped land along Wadams Way is a “great deal” and could see millions of dollars in return once the property is cleared and serviced, says a former councillor.
In January 2016, the district bought the land for $1.42-million, with plans to construct a library and other community amenities.
“If I have to take an educated guess, I would say the property could sell one-acre parcels for between $1 million and $1.5 million and eventually it could be even more than that,” said Herb Haldane, a local contractor who served on council for six years.
There’s good reason for his optimism.
With the Sooke region hitting a 15,000 population, small franchises, like Golf Town and Reitmans, are looking more favourable at the area.
“It’s why the district property is going to be worth a small fortune, and the district can rezone it to anything it wants,” he said.
The Wadams Way property, also known as Lot A, came under scrutiny recently when the Vancouver Island Regional Library decided to look elsewhere for its new $6-million library in Sooke.
The district and VIRL could not agree on costs to clear the land on Lot A, estimated to cost between, $600,000 to $800,000.
Haldane, whose company was once contracted to clean up the property, said Lot A is on solid footing with clay base soil, which indicates hardpan and perfect for building. He added drainage rock would be needed.
District council looked at the property going back to 2013, with the eye to add more land to its inventory and to create community assets such as a second community centre, affordable housing, urgent care centre, or park.
“This property is a complete blank slate and near the town centre,” said Mayor Maja Tait. “I don’t think we’d ever sell it. There’s a growing need – and demand – for more facilities as we grow.”
One of the problems in Sooke is the lack of available property for commercial development. The library did attempt to find property in the town core but didn’t have success.
Other challenges in the town core are topography, narrow lots, access and zoning.
With the likelihood the library will be build at SEAPARC (a decision by the library board is expected next month), council will probably be setting their goals for the property in the coming months.
“Everybody on council has their vision for the property,” Tait said. “We need to find some common ground and move forward.”