Aerial photo over Metchosin shows Spellman Park in the foreground with Blinkhorn Lake and Blinkhorn Mountain in the upper third of the image. On the left side of the photo

Metchosin considering park rezoning

Precedent-setting move would likely see Spellman Park sold and a
‘more suitable’ park property purchased by the District

Some Metchosin residents are concerned about the future of their parks and the green space they cherish. In particular, two parks many believe to be directly connected, one being Blinkhorn and other being Spellman. The latter is on council’s chopping block in an unprecedented decision.

“There’s several issues at hand,” said Anna Hall, Metchosin resident and biologist with a PhD in marine zoology. Her two biggest concerns are that council does not recognize the direct link between the two parks, and that there was a surprising lack of awareness in the community of council’s plans to rezone Spellman Park.

The five-acre Spellman Park, on the corner of Spellman Place and Lindholm Road, is adjacent to the roughly 45-acre Blinkhorn Park. Together, the two parcels form about 50 acres of protected forest for wildlife and, according to Hall, have been identified as a sensitive habitat well known for its ecological diversity. The corridor is used by wildlife including deer, larger carnivores and possibly even wolves, she said.

“If you look at it from an ecological point of view, it’s all one. They are continuous, you don’t have to be a biologist to see that.”

Hall said she only heard about council’s plans to rezone the park in passing, calling it “a foolhardy motion to be selling our parks when we should be saving our green space.”

“I’m concerned about the fate of all of Metchosin’s green spaces,” said Coun. Andy MacKinnon, who chairs the Metchosin Parks Committee.

“As neighbouring municipalities expand their density … we’re finding more and more pressure on Metchosin’s green spaces.”

But Metchosin council voted in favour of passing bylaw 620, commonly known as the disposal of Spellman Park, at their June 15 council meeting. It removes the property’s park status and allows the District the option of dividing the property into two new parcels to be sold for single family residences. MacKinnon wasn’t aware of Metchosin ever removing park status from a parcel of land.

“If this proceeds it would be a first.”

At the June meeting, council agreed the intent of the bylaw was to allow the District the option to sell the property at a future date. Bylaw 620 was moved to an alternative approval process, in which residents and property owners are given the option of filing out an elector response form opposing the bylaw change. The deadline for receipt of these forms was set for Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.

“By default, the people of Metchosin approve,” Hall said of the process. “How can you approve if you don’t know? It strikes me as not quite right.”

An information session has been scheduled for 6 to 6:45 p.m. on Monday (July 20) at the Metchosin municipal hall. MacKinnon said this would allow residents the opportunity to provide input and ask questions.

He reiterated that no decision has been made yet to sell the land. The only reason council would agree to sell the parcel, he added, would be if a more suitable piece of park land became available. Council just wanted the ability to act quickly if other more important parcels become available.

MacKinnon added that while council is always interested in any community input, to have a direct effect on this decision, residents need to fill out an electoral response form.

“If 10 per cent oppose it, then it won’t happen.”

The magic number of responses is 377. If at least that many people sign and submit the form, it would force the District to hold a referendum to pass the bylaw.

Hall remains concerned about the numbers.

When she started approaching other residents about what she called a “precedent-setting case,” very few had actually heard about it. This prompted Hall to start an online petition and Facebook group to spread the word. At the Gazette’s press time, the petition on change.org had more than 445 signatures, but had not been presented to council.

katie@goldstreamgazette.com

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