Metchosin Mayor John Ranns (Black Press Media file photo)

Charity’s plan to flip tax-exempt greenspace to development angers Metchosin mayor

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria tight-lipped on land plans

The spectre of a subdivision springing up on a large chunk of the Boys and Girls Club’s property in Metchosin has raised the ire of mayor and residents.

“Frankly, I’m quite pissed off,” said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns. “We have been giving them tax-exempt status for the past 17 years, and our understanding has always been that the property would remain in its entirety. I question their ability to fulfill their mandate without that wooded portion of the property. We’ll be looking at the tax-exempt status through a completely different lens when it comes before council.”

The 98-acre property off of Metchosin Road was loaned to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria (BGCV) by the provincial government to use as a camp and for outdoor programs in 1984. BGCV exercised its right of first refusal and purchased the property from the province for $1.6 million in 2004. The mortgage was paid off in 2011 through a variety of fundraising initiatives and donations.

Ranns said under Metchosin’s land-use bylaw, the 40-acre portion in question is a legal subdivision and does not require rezoning or provisions for amenities.

Metchosin has a contractor that handles these matters, and subdivisions like this go straight to the approving officer, Ranns explained. “Council is not allowed to influence the approving officer.”

Metchosin resident Bev Bacon, who lives near the property, said she contacted the BCGV and the organization’s head office for more information on what their plans are for the property, and received a response on Jan. 5 from Carrie Wagner-Miller, regional director for the western region of Boys and Girls Club Canada.

READ ALSO: Bear breaks into Metchosin car, leaves stench, mess behind

“We have reached out to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Victoria and are aware that they working with Devoncore, a commercial real estate firm,” Wagner-Miller said in an email. “At this time, the club has been advised to have all communication regarding the land go through Griffin Lewis from Devoncore, whom I have copied on this email.”

Lewis said in an email to Bacon that “The foundation and B&GC board and senior management have decided (based upon advice from me) that they will have no comment or discussion about their property until the subdivision application and process is complete. As I’m sure you can appreciate, it’s best to wait until all the variables and requirements from the district are understood before they can speak to what their plans are.”

Dalyce Dixon, executive director for BGCV, declined to provide comment to the Gazette and referred all inquiries to Lewis. Lewis emailed the same response to the Gazette as the one sent to Bacon.

Bacon decried the lack of information and transparency, and questions why a real estate company is handling communication for a non-profit.

“I don’t think a real estate broker is the best person to do damage control on the Boys and Girls Club brand,” she said.

“As I recall, the Boys and Girls Club got the land for a favourable price because they were cash poor and trying to provide a public service to introduce children to lush forests and environmental engagement.”

The organization’s financial statement for 2020 doesn’t appear to show any financial difficulties, Bacon noted. “If they can’t operate without selling environmentally sensitive land, they should find alternate funding. The land should be kept as it is for its environmental values. A non-profit generating a profit from a real estate sale is not right, not fair, not environmentally sound and looks really really bad. The land should be kept intact for its environmental values. In the absence of an explanation or plan from the organization, how can the public judge whether or not they have been bilked?”

Jay Shukin, president of the Association for the Rural Protection of Metchosin (APRM), said the land has two great attributes.

READ ALSO: Couple’s long battle with Saanich over a $300,000 storm drain ends with a win

“It’s a wonderful natural area with mature forests, Garry oak meadows and a pond that’s habitat for Western Painted Turtles,” Shukin said. “Second, it serves as a resource for youth in the broader community. Any funds generated by the subdivision or sale of the property will be a short-term solution that will create a significant long-term gap in regional youth programming options. It’s a rare and perhaps irreplaceable asset for youth programs based on outdoor recreation and nature immersion.”

Shukin also noted that the BGCV obtained the land from the provincial government in 2004 “under very favourable terms,” and the organization has received more than $300,000 in tax exemptions in the past 10 years. “That has led to the perception by local residents that the land would be preserved for public benefit, specifically outdoor youth recreation and education programs.

“We would like the Boys and Girls Club to put a pause on their subdivision plans and have them sit down with the APRM and other community organizations to help us better understand the club’s intentions with the land. We want to discuss how their plans fit into their mission of serving youth in Greater Victoria.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

District of Metchosin

Just Posted

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from the beach in rescue attempt in Nanaimo

Animal dies in spite of efforts of marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Kim McGregor died in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run accident in Chemainus. (Photo submitted)
Victim identified in Valentine’s Day Chemainus hit-and-run

Kim McGregor grew up in Chemainus and had recently returned to be close to his parents

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Note left for Oak Bay resident ignites debate about on-street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Cowichan Tribes open up vaccinations for members who are 40 and older. (File photo)
Cowichan Tribes opens up vaccinations for members 18 and older

Vaccination sessions to be held over weekend

Police in Nanaimo found multiple graffiti tags they allege were made by three men arrested for mischief in Maffeo Sutton Park on Feb. 15. (Photo submitted)
Graffiti taggers caught in Nanaimo with paint on their hands

Three suspects arrested at Maffeo Sutton Park last week

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read