A Saanich staff report recommends against the removal of the former Royal Oak Golf Course from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich staff recommend rejecting ALR exclusion of former Royal Oak golf course

Finial decision rest with Agricultural Land Commission

Plans for the re-development of a Greater Victoria golf course face an uncertain future after a report from Saanich staff.

Staff suggest council recommend rejecting an application to remove portions of the former Royal Oak Golf Course from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Business partners Denis Mamic and Dwayne Walbaum submitted an application in December 2017 to remove 85 per cent of the 27-acre lot — some 23 acres — from the ALR after purchasing it for $3.5 million in 2017.

RELATED: Owner of former golf course open to Saanich participation in re-development

The report from Sharon Hvozdanski, Saanich’s director of planning, notes among other points that the developers have not submitted any plans for the long-term future of the site. While the developers might “envision a high-quality, sustainable urban neighbourhood with a mixture of single-family dwellings and attached housing and a community with possible daycare or other community facilities,” staff have not received any other applications, said Hvozdanski.

“While staff understand the applicant’s reluctance to spend significant time and money to develop a specific land-use proposal in consultation with the community without knowing the outcome of the Agricultural Land Reserve process, the land use planning component is critical to inform future policy decisions for this area of Royal Oak,” she said. More details, she added, would help staff, council and the community better understand the “opportunities and potential impacts” of removal.

RELATED: Royal Oak Golf Course will be judged on soil, Popham says

Madrone Environmental Services said in a soil analysis report that 70 per cent of the ARL land has “poor agricultural land capability” in pointing to a number of limitations, with rest of the land considered to have “fair agricultural land capability.” The application also questions whether the site is accessible for farming, and compatible with surrounding urban uses, if it were to be used for farming.

The Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission (PAAC) reviewed the application after receiving the soil analysis but did not offer a formal recommendation. Comments, however, suggest that its members struggled with the application. On one hand, PAAC’s mandate is to support agriculture. On the other, PAAC members said it might be difficult to “make any money farming” from that because much of it is not “viable” for farming.

The Royal Oak Community Association (ROAC) opposed exclusion, noting among other points that soil analysis focuses narrowly on “soil capability” rather than “agricultural capability” in general, adding that the report does not consider the use of the site for small plot farming, community gardening or micro-farming applications necessary for addressing food security in Saanich.

The Saanich staff report also notes that many of the submissions received against exclusion call on Saanich or the Capital Regional District to acquire the park.

If Saanich council were to adopt the staff recommendation, the final decision would rest with the Agricultural Land Commission. Saanich also plans to review the Royal Oak local area plan starting in 2021.



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