Subdivision proposal for ex-Gordon Head feedlot to get a hearing

Residents will get a look at a proposed residential subdivision on a four-acre lot in Gordon Head — until recently the site of a controversial cattle feedlot — after Saanich councillors voted to hold a public hearing.

The plan for 16 single-family units on the Mount Douglas Cross Road property has been well-received by area residents, said Saanich Coun. Fred Haynes. Included in the proposal is $100,000 from the owners, the Alberg family, for trail improvements in Mount Douglas Park.

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Don Alberg said his family has a lot to be thankful for and felt the funding was appropriate.

“The family looked at it and said, ‘We can do that,’ ” he said. “We’ve had a lot of support from the Gordon Head ratepayers.”

Haynes called the money for trails “a very generous offer.” He said the application also includes protection for Garry oaks and other natural features, and the planting of an additional 68 Garry oaks on the site.

The Albergs have tried for some time to get rezoning to allow for a residential subdivision, but were in the unusual position of their land being both in the Agricultural Land Reserve and zoned for large-lot residential use.

Saanich maintained it would not rezone while the land was still in the ALR — a status that only the Agricultural Land Commission can change.

The Albergs feared that they could end up successfully applying to remove the land’s ALR designation, but have Saanich council turn down their rezoning request, leaving them with property that can be neither farmed nor developed.

The feedlot was started in 2013 in an attempt to get some return from the land, which the family has owned since 1945. Prior to that, farming activity such as grazing cattle and raising chickens had been phased out by 2005.

Haynes helped resolve the long-standing issues by asking Saanich council in May to approve a one-time deviation from the process of calling for exclusion from the ALR to come before rezoning.

Council unanimously backed his idea, and the Albergs submitted their subdivision proposal the next day.

A few weeks later, on June 4, all 19 cows on the property were taken away. Don Alberg said the move was made as an “act of good faith.”

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