The Gordon Head cattle saga is coming to an end as Saanich council unanimously agreed to forward the property at 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Road for removal from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Assuming the Agricultural Land Commission does in fact remove it, it’s a green light for the Alberg family to proceed with a 16-house development on the panhandle lot they’ve owned since 1945.
The family began cattle farming on the land after a development proposal for the property reached a stalemate over concerns about Saanich using an unwritten policy, and ALR removal.
“It’s definitely a big relief to the neighbourhood, council and to the family. I think everybody is winners and I look forward to moving on,” said Don Alberg.
None of the cattle farming family live on the property though siblings Don, Gordon and Florence grew up there. An employee-tenant resides at the house of the address.
The family moved the cattle off of the property in June, which had acted as a feedlot the past two years.
Last week’s hearing drew 1.5 hours worth of arguments for and against the proposal from residents, a repeat of the previous day’s council item regarding a potential sewage treatment site on Watkiss Way.
But in the end, it’s not an argument that the land should remain in the ALR, rather, that this is a site which should have been zoned for residential development 30 years ago, said Coun. Fred Haynes.
“There is a key argument that all land should be looked at for food production, but in this case, the biologist report essentially said it is not arable for plant-based agriculture, for berry bushes or fruit trees. [If it were], it would be a different story.”
Haynes brought up the point that the Albergs did apply to have chickens on the property, which would have had much less of a neighbourhood impact than cattle, but council voted against it.
“This decision is consistent with our OCP, it is a piece of land that should have come out of the ALR 30 years ago,” said Haynes, who brought the Alberg matter back to council earlier this year.
“It became an island surrounded by development,” he said.
Binding in the process are that the new 16-house project will be built to a LEED gold standard, and the creation of seven Garry oak covenants. To compensate for lost Garry oaks due to construction, about 70 Garry oak trees will be added, maintaining the Garry oak canopy.
A strata road will be built to access the homes, which will also open up access to two more potential lots at the back of the property, bringing a total of 18 new houses in Saanich. None of the homes will be permitted a secondary suite.
Beef sales at the property will end, though Don Alberg will continue to sell meat from his Qualicum Beach farm.