Don Alberg moved the cattle onto the property at 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Rd. because it’s a use that’s permitted within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The family’s plan is to turn the land into a feedlot where up to 150 cattle are fattened up before being shipped off to market — though they would prefer to develop the property and turn it into a subdivision with 12 to 16 lots.
The Albergs applied to the Agricultural Land Commission to remove the 1.64-hectare site from the ALR, but withdrew the application after Saanich council was unable to assure them that a rezoning would be granted.
“We’d be stuck with a piece of land that we couldn’t farm and we couldn’t develop,” said Alberg from his Qualicum Beach farm.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard has tried to advocate for the family but says it’s against the law for council to give assurances about rezoning before the application process is complete.
“Unfortunately, the Albergs seemed to be determined to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory because they want the rezoning to be a sure thing,” Leonard said.
The Albergs have owned the property since 1945, and it’s where the three siblings who now own it were raised.
“Our mother was here until she was 100 years old, happy with her five cows,” Alberg said.
If the family sells the property to a developer, they’ll lose profit and control, he said.
Instead, they hope to create their own subdivision “and put a little more window dressing on it.”
For example, Alberg said, every house would be built by development permit, ensuring that the form and character was consistent throughout the subdivision.
“We said the stormwater would be managed by rain gardens rather than letting it run out on the road and into the ditch and into the Blenkinsop Valley,” Alberg said.
The care about detail comes from the family’s connection to the land, he said.
“It’s where we grew up, we played here and I got my first cattle here over 50 years ago,” he said.
There are 23 head of cattle on the land now and the plan is to develop a feedlot until the family can resolve their differences with the district.
Alberg is apologetic to neighbours who have supported their plan to subdivide but who now live next door to cattle, with the accompanying noise and smell.
Leonard acknowledges that the family is blaming the district for the problems.
“I can give them advice but there seems to be a fair amount of emotion in their actions right now, rather than logic.”
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