Saanich’s Panama Flats is set to become the latest addition to B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve by the end of the year, if all goes as planned.
On Monday, council unanimously approved a submission to the Agricultural Land Commission to add the 14.5-hectare parcel to the ALR. Saanich purchased the land in 2011 for $2.4 million.
“The whole site is considerably bigger than that, as Panama Hill is already in the ALR,” said Mayor Frank Leonard. “With this parcel, the total farmland would increase to 23 hectares.”
Once approved, Leonard said the municipality will lease the farmable land after executing a concept redevelopment plan. That plan includes a system of trails, a floodplain, remediation of a portion of Bowker Creek and a protected area for birds and other wildlife.
“We wanted to make sure the area is protected for farmland as much as we possibly can,” Leonard said. “The ALR’s a great way to do that.”
The plan was mostly supported in letters to council, though some neighbours expressed concern for the well-being of frogs and other wildlife.
The ALR addition was also criticized by some members of the Residents Association of Strawberry Vale, Marigold and Glanford at Monday’s public hearing, as well as on social media.
Association president Charlaine Felker said she personally supports the Panama Flats plan, but some of her colleagues and surrounding neighbours believe the government is meddling too much by transferring the land.
Leonard said it would be hypocritical of council not to use the land for farming when it was purchased three years ago for that purpose.
“I think the (Agricultural) Land Commission is probably tickled pink to get this land proposal, so I think they’ll be turning this around pretty quickly,” he said. “Some of these proposals take two years, but we hope to hear back from them by the end of the year.”