Editorial: Chickens come home to roost

When ideology trumps common sense, strange things can happen, such as a poultry farm sprouting up next to residential neighbourhoods.

When ideology trumps common sense, strange things can happen, such as a poultry farm sprouting up next to residential neighbourhoods.

Saanich council has twice denied supporting a four-acre Mount Doug Cross Road property be removed from the agricultural land reserve, for eventual subdivision into a dozen houses.

Most of the neighbours were on side with this plan, and why wouldn’t they be? Most live in homes similar to those in the proposal.

But the problem for some Saanich councillors was the “repugnant” idea of turning farmland into housing. Preserving farmland makes sense in many cases, but not all.

The farm property, long owned by the Alberg family, sits near the boundary of sprawling Gordon Head suburbia and Blenkinsop Valley farm fields.

It’s surrounded on three sides by relatively dense, small lot single family housing. The fourth side has a few one-acre lots. It’s a stone’s throw from Blenkinsop farms, but pushes up against residential homes.

Perhaps some on Saanich council envisioned the property producing idyllic rows of leafy green vegetables. Instead, the Alberg family has proposed an equally valid farming activity – a 12,000-bird poultry operation.

According to renderings provided by the family, the four barns, access roads, an administration building and structures to hold manure and sawdust would roll over the majority of the property.

If the family has the capital and can satisfy Saanich that it will conform to bylaws regarding farm animals and setbacks, there’s no reason the poultry farm won’t be up and running next year.

Urban sprawl isn’t pleasant and Saanich council has the right to encourage more modern neighbourhood designs. But in Gordon Head and near the Alberg property, that ship has long sailed.

Forcing the preservation of a small, isolated piece  of farmland is, as the mayor noted, a no-win for the owners, the neighbours and the district.