Saanich rules out potential sewage-treatment site on ALR land

A 12-hectare property on Watkiss Way adjacent to Victoria General Hospital won’t be sent to the Capital Regional District for consideration as a sewage-treatment site, despite the urging of proponents who say it has strong potential.

The privately owned forested rural property, part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, had to be vetted by Saanich council to be placed on the CRD’s list of possible sites, said Ray Parks, representing owner Allen Vandekerhove. Council voted 5-4 Monday night not to send the proposal to the CRD.

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The proposal calls for about five hectares of the land to be used for sewage treatment.

The plan is new, but the site had previously been turned down at the CRD level. Coun. Vicki Sanders said the land’s ALR status was raised as a concern, and a number of councillors raised the issue again Monday.

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell said the site should be forwarded to the CRD so the public can decide if it has merit. Not to do so would be “a grand disservice” to residents, he said.

The CRD’s Eastside Select Committee — looking for sewage-treatment sites for Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay — has asked to be informed about potential privately owned sites by Wednesday, since a technical analysis of options begins this summer. The committee has already shortlisted eight possible sites for sewage treatment, while Westside Solutions — its counterpart in Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, View Royal and the Songhees First Nation — announced last week that it had identified 20 “technically feasible” sites.

Those 20 sites will be pared down to top options.

Parks, president of BIM (Business in Motion) Consulting, said he went to Saanich council because site possibilities have to be looked at by the municipality involved.

“Saanich needs to firstly be aware of the site and accept it as a possible site. All we’re asking is that it be considered.”

The property has a number of compelling features, Parks said.

“It is precisely the centre of the region geographically, so you could, in theory, serve the entire region.”

The nearby hospital could benefit from heat generated at the plant, he said.

Parks said the parcel is large enough that the plant would not be readily visible, and other uses could be put in place.

“We’re proposing an additional 10 acres, maybe more, of greenhouses. The greenhouses would be heated with the ambient heat from the plant, and that’s the heat that would normally just escape into the atmosphere.”

He said Vandekerhove is willing to sell or lease the land, or to trade for other sites purchased by the CRD at McLoughlin Point or on Viewfield Road. He said he did not have an estimate of the value of the Watkiss Way land.

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