Alberg farm lands final approval

Rezoning ends family’s lengthy dispute with Saanich council

The Alberg family cattle farm and feedlot on Mount Douglas Cross Road is history.

After 10 years of back and forth with Saanich and council, a 16-lot Alberg development proposal will go forward. Council unanimously passed the rezoning application to allow smaller lot sizes on the 1.6-hectare property on Monday.

It’s the final “piece of the puzzle,” said Don Alberg, who spoke for his brother Gordon Alberg, sister Florence Davis, and their respective families.

“In the end, the plan is virtually the same as it was in 2012. Council, for whatever reasons, believe the proposal is now worthy of endorsement, we always believed it was.”

The property was recently relieved of its Agricultural Land Reserve status. It was also removed from Saanich’s Environmental Development Permit Area atlas, escaping the bylaw that’s since become publicly contested.

Alberg credited the new faces on council for bringing the development proposal for 1516 Mount Doug X Rd. back to the table in 2015, ending a process that began 10 years ago.

Coun. Fred Haynes asked council to reconsider the proposal, which hinged on the farm’s removal from the ALR, in May. That ended a stalemate, one of many since 2006. The difference being that since 2013, the Albergs have used the land as a cattle feedlot.

The Alberg siblings grew up on the farm, where mom Vera was known for having cattle previously. Since the 1980s, the land was marked for residential development and to be removed from the ALR by the local area plan.

However, controversy grew as former mayor Frank Leonard and council refused to permit rezoning and approval of a development proposal until the land was removed from the ALR. But the Albergs believed both could be done simultaneously, ensuring Saanich (who they didn’t trust), would indeed approve the development, and they wouldn’t be left with a lot they could neither farm nor develop.

There was also threats from Leonard to refuse a tree removal permit in 2014, despite ALR rules permitting tree removal for farm use.

In the end, the councils were well intentioned but it was the wrong place to do it, Alberg said.

“Saving farmland is paramount to me. I’m a farmer myself, I have a real appreciation for the preservation of good productive land,” he said. “That just happened to be a place not well located for that exercise. The biologist report said it was incapable of supporting any kind of soil-bound agriculture.”

As for the timeline moving ahead, Alberg says the family is uncertain just when construction could begin.

“Whether we partner with [a developer] or sell it, we don’t know. When we started this we were 10 years younger and none of us were collecting old age pension. Now I’m 70 and I’m the youngest.”

 

reporter@saanichnews.com