Tag Archives: ALR

Protecting farmland: Rejecting ALR removal on Mt Doug X Rd

Saanich Councillors voted against re-zoning property on Mt. Douglas X Road for a second time Monday night.
CFAX 1070 July 22, 2012

The owners of the property at 1516 Mt. Douglas X Rd wanted to remove it from the Agricultural Land Reserve and rezone it for 10 new units.

Councillor Dean Murdock says that isn’t going to happen.

“The one thing that sort of kept this [proposal] alive is that there was this language in the very dated Local Area Plan that says that this could potentially be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve. That’s inconsistent with the language in our Official Community Plan.”

Murdock says staff have also been directed to change the language in the Local Area Plan to clarify that “council wasn’t prepared to consider forwarding an application again with respect to this property.”

The proposal was uninanimously rejected last year and again Monday night.

Standing up for farmland

Saanich Council Demonstrates ‘Smart Growth’
A. Furtado, Saanich Voice Online

For the third time since Saanich adopted their Official Community Plan, Saanich Council rejected rezoning applications from developers that wanted to sacrifice potential farmland for short term profits. The most recent application was defeated unanimously, effectively putting an end to the developer’s plan to construct 16 homes on land currently located in the Agricultural Land Reserve. “As our population grows, there is an increased demand for development and pressure to encroach upon agricultural land,” states Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock. “Developing agricultural land to accommodate growth is killing the goose for its golden egg. It compromises our food security and makes a mockery of our land-use plans, while contributing to car-dependent sprawl.”

Councillor Murdock continues “Agricultural land is too important to carve up into parcels for urbanization…Instead of paving our farmland for housing to generate real estate income, we should be looking for more ways to support our local farmers by keeping farming profitable.” With dramatic increases in fuel and food costs, residents are realizing that having local food readily available is no longer optional, but is becoming a necessity. According to Councillor Murdock rising food costs are making it more expensive to put meals on the table “…ensuring we have quality, affordable food supports our farmers, our health and our environment too with a smaller carbon footprint.” The Capital Regional District is also in agreement, as they transition to what is called a “Regional Sustainability Strategy” to promote food security within the region. A CRD memorandum states, “There is a greater need and desire for accessing local food sources to promote well being and to connect with the land. Traditional production and agriculture systems are failing on many fronts, including loss or fragmentation of productive agricultural land.”

This measured approach from Saanich Council to protect agricultural land, comes in stark contrast to neighbouring municipality Central Saanich, where the current council’s attitude towards development is quite different. In addition to re-designating ALR land for the approx. 50-home Vantreight subdivision, Central Saanich is currently fast tracking approval for the Co-Op to build a large scale shopping center on rural land, as well as approving numerous building applications where lots are being divided into parcels as little as 30 feet in width. This may seem ironic, when considering 60 years ago Central Saanich separated from Saanich primarily to protect its land from urbanization.

In Central Saanich, the future of rural land was discussed at the March 30th 2011 Advisory Planning Commission Special Meeting, where fears of “densification” repeatedly arose throughout the evening. A number of concerned residents in attendance spoke out requesting that Council must create guidelines regarding densification that also support the Official Community Plan, before more applications for subdivisions are approved. Resident David Wilson said that Central Saanich infrastructure is over 40 years old and is “insufficient” to support the strain that council is imposing with increased densification. Wilson also noted that development in Central Saanich appears to be “unrestricted” and the community is upset with the lack of consistency and rules surrounding development applications.

Central Saanich Councillor John Garrison was asked for his view on densification. “Any time you put anything down, people regard it as densification…council has approved funding for creating guidelines for densification and to get public input starting in September.” However, according to Garrison, Council has no plans to change how they process development applications while they await these guidelines. Central Saanich Councillor Terry Siklenka, Director on the Council of Construction Associations and a former Director on the Vancouver Island Construction Association, was asked how he felt densification could help Central Saanich. No reply was received.

This Fall there will be a municipal election critical to the future of Central Saanich. The new, incoming council will be reviewing the Official Community Plan, which designates how much farmland Central Saanich will have and where that farmland will be located within the municipality. The ramifications of this review could change the landscape of Central Saanich forever. According to Councillor Murdock, “Protecting and enhancing local food production starts with saving agricultural land and maintaining our community’s urban containment boundaries…doing so will protect our quality of life, food security, our health and our climate for now and for future generations.”

ALR removal shut down

Saanich rejects proposal to develop farm and faces glitch in its own plan
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Kim Westad, Times Colonist

A Saanich family’s bid to develop their 1.64-hectare property into a 16-lot subdivision was firmly voted down by Saanich council, with politicians emphasizing the importance of conserving agricultural land.

But the application showed a glitch in the municipality’s Official Community Plan that council also wants to deal with.

The Alberg family has lived at 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Rd. since 1945, and used it for a variety of hobby farm activities until 2005. As the Albergs planted gardens, fruit trees, raised chickens and had cattle grazing the grass, the property around them was gradually rezoned and developed. Now, their property, which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, is largely surrounded by single family homes.

Lands to the north were subdivided in the early 1950s, and to the east in the 1970s. On the east side is the Mercer Place subdivision. Land to the south was developed throughout the 1980s.

The property now has one home on it, set amid 166 trees, most of them Garry oaks.

It is one of only two privately-owned parcels of ALR land in Gordon Head, and councillors are loath to remove anything from the reserve that protects farmland.

Developer Roger Tinney outlined the plan for a 16-lot subdivision that would take into account the Garry oaks, with houses on larger lots between 780 square metres to 1,045 square metres. Those would be similar to the size of recently approved Mercer Place. Houses would be limited to a gross floor area of 435 square metres.

Numerous residents spoke against it, as did most of council. The first step toward rezoning would be Saanich approving an application that the land be removed from the ALR.

That recommendation would then go to the Agricultural Land Commission for a decision.

That first step was voted down by council, with Coun. Paul Gerrard leading the charge.

Gerrard said he committed to protecting ALR lands when he was elected, and it’s something that is growing increasingly important at a time when food security is a concern.

Coun. Dean Murdock was also against removing the land from the ALR and said even if it was not in the land reserve, he would be against a development of this density at that location.

“This is a 1980s-style development and this council is far beyond that,” Murdock said.

Municipal staff had recommended it be forwarded to the land commission, which points out a problem in Saanich’s community plan, Mayor Frank Leonard said.

The plan says that there are to be no ALR exclusion recommendations unless the property meets certain criteria.

That includes an agrologist’s report on how farmable the land is. That report on the Mount Douglas Cross Road land said the agricultural capability was generally poor and that excluding it from the ALR was not anticipated to have adverse impacts on local or regional agriculture.

Leonard said that policy is “not sufficient” to deal with the issue. While an application might meet that simple criteria, it may well not meet with the community or council’s principles.

Council voted to ask staff to report back with suggestions on improving the process and policy.

Council rejects ALR removal

Saanich turns down request to turn ALR land into ‘suburbia’
By Kyle Slavin – Saanich News

Five years ago Saanich council likely would’ve given the green light to a 16-home subdivision on protected agricultural land. But times – and priorities – certainly have changed.

A request to exclude a 1.64-hectare parcel of land was rejected unanimously Monday night by a council that called the proposed project “repugnant” and “offensive.”

“This is borne out of 1980s development,” said Coun. Dean Murdock of the single-family lots, straight out of suburbia. “Our regional growth strategy would find this issue repugnant.”

Recently adopted official community plans (OCP) set goals for the future of Saanich, including the promotion of high density projects in urban areas and food security through farming. Neither of those issues were addressed in the proposal, submitted by the Alberg family, who have owned the land for decades.

“It all hinges on what our values are,” Coun. Susan Brice said. “For us to support the removal of land from the ALR it would have to be such a compelling argument (and be) for the greater good of our community … not the development of more houses.”

A dozen neighbours of the property, at 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Rd., spoke against taking the land out of the ALR. Despite the findings of an agrologist, hired by the applicant, who reported that the soil on the site is of poor quality, many speakers were adamant the land still be used for farming.

“It’s been farmed in the past,” said neighbour Pat Summers, who has a background in agricultural. “Yes, it’s not being farmed. Does that mean they couldn’t farm it in the future? No. You might not be able to plant potatoes, but you can also amend the soil. There’s lots of things that can happen.”

Councilors agreed with neighbours’ sentiments that the agrologist’s findings that “the sustainability of agricultural activity is generally poor” and “the exclusion of this isolated parcel from the ALR is not to have adverse impacts on … agricultural operations” doesn’t tell the whole story.

“These decisions rely heavily on the science, the history, and the policy surrounding the property,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “We have standards to keep, so my recommendation is that we, essentially, get a second opinion.”

His concern is that there are a handful of similar small properties remaining in the municipality that are surrounded by residences, but have yet to come forward to be excluded from the ALR. He anticipates they will all eventually be brought before council.

Leonard asked staff to look at policy in dealing with these remaining properties to ensure the most accurate information is being given to councillors.

“Farming and local food production has changed. To say it’s too small or it’s not feasible in today’s reality is not true,” Coun. Judy Brownoff said. “I have problems relying just on the agrologist. We need more information, more policy and more third party analysis.”

Despite staff’s recommendation that council approve the exclusion of land from the ALR, the application failed. Staff will now look at other options for council to receive more thorough information on agricultural land use.

Saanich Council rejects application to remove land from ALR

Saanich council rejects application to remove land from Agricultural Land Reserve for rezoning
CFAX 1070 – March 14, 2011

Saanich council has unanimously decided to not forward an application to remove land at Mount Douglas Road from the Agricultural Land Reserve, to be rezoned for 16 residential strata lots.

Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock says supporting the application would go against several of the district’s policies.

“Council has some very strong policies in the official community plan, and following the guidelines in the regional growth strategy as well as a number of our own policies around the urban containment boundary and preservation of farmland that fell definitively on the side of protecting the land.”

Murdock says the land in question was still considered to have agricultural value, with a significant garry oak forest.

“And it would be a significant loss if those garry oaks were put at risk, and if the habitat, natural preservation area created by this land, if that was lost.”

Murdock says he has heard from a number of constituents who support preserving the land.