Residential Gordon Head may soon be a smellier, louder place, as the owners of a piece of agricultural land move forward on their plans to put a cattle farm in the middle of a neighbourhood.
Don Alberg, who owns 1516 Mount Douglas X Rd. with the his siblings Gordon Alberg and Florence Davis, told the News this week the cows will move in Tuesday.
The 1.64-hectare property was last year slated to become a 12-lot residential subdivision, which Saanich council rejected. Then it was to become a 12,000-hen poultry farm, which Saanich planning rejected.
While the Albergs want the property to become housing, they say they’re stuck between a rock and hard place, with their property sitting in development limbo.
Mayor Frank Leonard said he’s tried to be an advocate for the Albergs, sympathizing with their frustrations surrounding conflicting views on zoning and farmland. But this new move, the mayor said, is testing that.
“I think they’re acting emotionally, rather than rationally. And I think they’re hoping the neighbours act emotionally, as opposed to rationally,” Leonard said. “(The Albergs) were successful in using the poultry operation as a means to motivate the neighbours to convince council to send the property to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).”
In December, council voted 8-1 to send a potential rezoning application to the ALC. Because the property is protected farmland, the ALC must first approve removing it from the Agricultural Land Reserve before the municipality can approve rezoning.
But the Albergs have since requested the municipality not send anything to the ALC. Unless the Albergs support sending a development application to the ALC, legally there is nothing more Saanich can offer them, when it comes to rezoning the property, the mayor said.
“They want us to be pressured into giving them a 16-lot rezoning. They figure the cattle will help them motivate the neighbours to tell us to do that. It’s against the law to guarantee the rezoning (without ALC approval first),” Leonard said.
Coun. Dean Murdock, the sole dissenting vote at the December meeting, said it’s frustrating that a cattle feed lot is still being considered, let alone being moved in this week.
“I don’t think anybody expected that kind of use of the property. Frankly, a cattle feed lot in a residential neighbourhood seems ridiculous, and I think it is an absurd use of that property,” he said. “Believe it or not though, this is an acceptable use (of the land).”
At the December meeting, Murdock said the zoning and farmland issues aren’t as “black and white” as they appear, and he still believes a happy compromise can be reached that satisfies neighbours, the property owners and the municipality.
“In the meantime, all we can hope is that the neighbours get some relief quickly, and having cattle on that lot is not a situation that goes on any number of days, never mind for the long-term,” Murdock said.