Family to close Gordon Head feedlot as Saanich considers development

A controversial cattle feedlot in Gordon Head is being shut down, with all 19 animals to be removed June 4.

In a letter sent to neighbours of their Mount Douglas Cross Road property, Florence, Gordon and Don Alberg said they hope the measure will be seen as “an act of good faith” while they wait for the outcome of their subdivision proposal for the land.

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“If [Saanich] council rejects this again, uncertainty around our property will remain and our family will have to consider the options available to us,” the Albergs wrote.

The feedlot is on a four-acre property that the Alberg family has owned since 1945. They had phased out farming activities, such as raising chickens and grazing cattle, by 2005, but opened the feedlot in 2013 to get some revenue from the property.

Neighbourhood complaints from the largely residential area about odours and other problems soon followed.

The Albergs have been trying for a number of years to have the zoning changed to allow a residential subdivision. Complications have come up because the land is zoned for large-lot residential use and is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Saanich had previously said it would not proceed with rezoning while the land was still in the ALR, something that can be changed only by the Agricultural Land Commission.

The Albergs had been concerned they could successfully apply to lose the ALR designation and then not get the desired rezoning, leaving them in a position where they could neither farm nor develop the property.

The situation was eased this month when Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes won support from fellow councillors for a one-time deviation from the practice of having ALR exclusion precede rezoning.

The Albergs responded with a proposal for a subdivision with 16 single-family units.

“It’s very good news all round,” Haynes said of the Albergs’ decision. He said the move by council has given the landowners “sufficient confidence” to take the cattle away.

“This is a really classy act by the family. It’s responsive to the interests of the neighbours and the community.”

Jinx Barber, who lives next door to the Alberg land, said she is optimistic about the process. She was one of many residents who told councillors that the feedlot was having a negative effect.

Don Alberg said Friday that the idea behind moving the cattle was “to show the neighbours that we’re serious.”

He said the family is hopeful about the process now underway. “It takes time with the district to do their thing. There’s a set order that things have to be done in.”

He said he would like to see the issue come before Saanich committee of the whole on June 15 or 22.

The letter includes an invitation to neighbours to attend a session at the property on June 7, 4-7 p.m., for a look at the plans.

“We have been told our proposal is among the most pleasing to be put before Saanich council in quite some time, and it is something we are very proud of,” the letter said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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