Former feedlot removed from ALR, paving way for subdivision

A Saanich farmer has moved one step closer to a zoning change that would allow for a residential subdivision on what until recently was a controversial Gordon Head cattle feedlot.

Don Alberg’s four-acre property at 1516 Mount Douglas X Rd. has been excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve, a step the family has long sought.

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“It’s been a long time coming,” Alberg said.

The order from the Agricultural Land Commission means that Saanich council can now accept motions to rezone the property. “This is the most light at the end of the tunnel we’ve seen for a while,” Alberg said. “Nothing ever operates as quickly as you anticipated. There’s a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross.”

The cattle feedlot on property the Alberg family has owned since 1945 had prompted noise and odour complaints from neighbours in the largely residential area.

While the Alberg family had phased out farming on the land by 2005, they opened the feedlot two years ago when attempts to rezone the land for a residential subdivision were stymied by the municipality. The family said it wanted to generate revenue from the property.

While the land is zoned for large-lot residential use, the stumbling block has been the ALR designation. The municipality’s position was that it would not consider rezoning the land while it was still in the ALR.

In May, however, the deadlock was broken when Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes won support from fellow councillors for a one-time deviation from the practice of having ALR exclusion precede rezoning.

As a goodwill gesture, Alberg closed the cattle feedlot, removing 19 cows. In July, Saanich council voted to remove the family farm from the ALR to allow the residential development. The Agricultural Land Commission had the final decision.

The subdivision proposal includes $100,000 from the owners for trail improvements in Mount Douglas Park. “The previous council thought it could be farmed and so we went to farm it for a few years but that isn’t what they had in mind,” Alberg said. “But it’s what the soil was usable for.”

Alberg credited Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell’s new council with “taking a fresh look at it, so that kind of moved this whole thing forward.”

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