Neighbours of a Sooke landowner are raising a stink with Sooke council over a neighbour’s plan to install a pig farm a stone’s throw from their backyards.
Landowner Anthony Laughren has unsuccessfully sought to have his 2.28-hectare plot at 6912 West Coast Rd. removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve since 2016.
He and his in-laws, the Shaw family, co-own an adjacent parcel, a four-hectare lot at 7166 West Coast Rd., which has also been subject to an application for removal. The latter property has been in the Shaw family for 62 years.
“The land is not arable and not cropable,” said Laughren’s sister-in-law, Stephanie Shaw, who has been fighting for the last two years for the exemption. Shaw is the daughter of farmer Ed Shaw, the original owner of both properties. “This is not what we want for the community, but our hands are tied.”
Over the long weekend, trees were removed from the smaller lot at 6912 West Coast Rd. and heavy machinery was brought in to prepare the land for a feedlot to raise pigs.
Neighbour Eric Lindquist was awakened at 7:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Day by the sounds of machinery operating near his property, which borders the two lots.
“I called the police to register a noise complaint,” he said. “It’s just another tactic, part of an ongoing battle by them to get their property out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.”
Shaw countered that, while unfortunate, the timing of the work was dictated by the weather, since the soil needed to be cool enough to support the use of heavy machinery.
But construction noise isn’t the main issue for Lindquist and his neighbours on Tominny Road.
Shaw has said she plans to raise up to 40 pigs at a time, and collect the waste from the animals and use it as fertilizer for the fields — a stinky proposition.
Lindquist and his neighbours believe that the latest action is a tactic to make them complain and sway Sooke council to recommend taking the land out of the reserve. He has sent a letter to all the candidates for Sooke council to alert them to the issue and ask for help.
The family has tried before to remove the land from the Agricultural Land Reserve. An application by Ed Shaw in 2006 (when he owned the land) was turned down by the Agricultural Land Commission because it deemed the land to have “prime capacity for agriculture.”
In 2011, Sooke council supported another application, but it was subsequently rejected by the commission as well.
In an interview with the Times Colonist in 2014, Ed Shaw noted that as long as his land remained in the reserve, the selling price would not even cover how much he owed the bank. The smaller lotwas subsequently purchased by Laughren, his son-in-law.
Taking drastic measures to convince decision-makers to remove land from the ALR is not unusual. In Saanich, the Alberg family built a feedlot for 20 head of cattle on a Mount Douglas Cross Road property surrounded by suburban homes in 2013, after their attempts to remove the land from the ALR were unsuccessful.
The neighbours complained and Saanich council finally agreed to rezone the land prior to an application to remove it from the ALR. Council also threw its support behind the application.
Stephanie Shaw has met with Don Alberg for advice and calls him a wonderful man.
A spokesperson for the Agricultural Land Commission said it has not received any recent applications to remove the land from the reserve. Once it does, it will send the application to Sooke council for consideration.
“You always see these conflicts pop up from time to time,” said Rick Kasper, a Sooke councillor.
Kasper said he’s sympathetic to the concerns raised by members of the public in regard to the creation of a feedlot next to a residential neighbourhood.
But he added that the timing of the issue “smells” because it has surfaced in the leadup to an election.
“It goes without saying that the new council and mayor will have to deal with this contentious issue soon after they assume office.”