Mayor pulls out of Woodwynn Farms debate after revealing he sheltered friend

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor recused himself from council discussions about Woodwynn Farms Monday night when it became known he has been sheltering a friend in a bus on his Wallace Drive property for a couple of months.

“My wife and I provided shelter on a temporary basis to a friend,” Windsor said Tuesday. “She was fixing up a bus with the intent of taking it somewhere or travelling in it. Because of the perception, I determined it was not appropriate for me to continue to be involved, so I recused myself from the council table.”

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Richard Leblanc, founder and executive director of Woodwynn Farms addiction treatment centre, said the irony of the situation is enormous.

“It’s through the roof,” said Leblanc, who attended the council meeting. “I appreciated his comment, that he was just trying to help out a friend. And that was the comment I made to mayor and council. I get it. That’s what I am trying to do. We’re both trying to help people and can we please work together and find solutions.”

Last week, Central Saanich posted “no occupancy” notices on some of the buildings and recreational vehicles at Woodwynn Farms. The notices went up after a recreational vehicle caught fire on Oct. 31. On Nov. 29, provincial electrical inspectors found the wiring in the vehicles “was a life safety hazard.”

Six residents of Woodwynn, which offers programs for those dealing with homelessness or substance-abuse, live in the recreational vehicles and are at risk of being homeless. Leblanc has said he will not obey the notices.

Windsor said he will make changes to comply with Central Saanich rules. “I’ve obviously learned an important lesson here, trying to help out a friend,” Windsor said. “I may not have shown the best judgment and we’re obviously going to fully comply with the rules. They’re appropriate. We chose to help a friend and certainly are supportive of that, but it’s got to be done the right way.”

Windsor said he asked council not to be influenced by his situation when it makes decisions on Woodwynn Farms.

The District of Central Saanich issued a statement Tuesday saying it supports rehabilitation facilities if they are zoned appropriately and meet building codes. “We have the utmost respect for the participants at Woodwynn Farms and the society’s goal of providing more addiction rehabilitation options,” it said. “It is our understanding Woodwynn Farms has sufficient safe housing for participants without depending on recreational vehicles.”

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