Updated with comment from Mayor Ryan Windsor on Feb. 16 at 2:48 p.m.
Richard Leblanc wants more time to save Woodwynn Farms, but there is tension between him and the society that owns the property.
On Tuesday, Leblanc filed documents in the B.C. Supreme Court indicating his intent to meet with the Creating Homefulness Society’s board of directors and the original buyers of the farm to try and work something out. He asked for the full amount of time to pay off the mortgage, and a further extension if necessary.
In a further development, Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said in a follow-up interview that Leblanc was no longer a board member of the Creating Homefulness Society. In December, Central Saanich council resolved to meet with the Creating Homefulness Society’s board in the new year, and the meeting did occur. Leblanc said it was mainly to inform council that a major announcement was imminent, which ended up being the foreclosure announcement on Jan. 18.
However, Mayor Windsor said Leblanc was not present at that January meeting with the District. The Peninsula News Review has reached out to Leblanc on this issue, which was not discussed during an initial interview late yesterday afternoon.
Teri DuTemple and Nigel Beattie, two board members of the Creating Homefulness Society, have not yet responded to the PNR’s request for comment.
In an interview late yesterday, Leblanc said there was some “back and forth” between him, the board, and BC Housing about how to go forward, but “frankly things were certainly tense at a board level with all the pressure to sell.” He said he submitted a response to petition because of time pressure.
“I think the board is quite motivated to be done with it and sell the farm, and I’m quite motivated to find a solution,” he said.
He said BC Housing told him they wanted to meet and explore some options. The Agricultural Land Commission has twice denied their application to build more housing on the farm, but Leblanc said they would find solution that “would not require overruling or going around or even applying for any housing permits.” He said they could look at other properties in the neighbourhood that could be available for housing.
“We have an indication that we have a funder from BC Housing Authority that they’re looking to find a way to support us and get us through our mortgage foreclosure and housing issues.”
Leblanc said that if the board of the Creating Homefulness Society were to object, he said he would respect their wishes, saying “I don’t have a veto power.”
Leblanc said he also had a meeting with many senior provincial officials, including Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy, her deputy minister Doug Hughes and high-level staff from BC Housing and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Leblanc said he has not spoken to the philanthropists who purchased the farm in some time and does not know their feelings on the matter. However, he has said there has been many letters of support from local residents written to the province and the District of Central Saanich.
The farm market is still open right now, but Leblanc said foot traffic has been down recently, “in part because of the negative media out there, so a lot of uncertainty from folks.”
Leblanc said he received a comment saying a court date would happen “in the next few weeks” but no specific date was set.
Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that in December 2017, Central Saanich council resolved to meet with Richard Leblanc in the new year. In fact, Central Saanich council resolved to meet with the board of the Creating Homefulness Society. Further, Richard Leblanc is still executive director of the society, but is no longer a board member. This story will be updated as the situation develops.