Woodwynn Farms residents plan to defy eviction order

Central Saanich has posted “no occupancy” notices on some of the buildings and recreational vehicles at Woodwynn Farms addiction treatment centre, a move that operator Richard Leblanc says could effectively put the site’s six residents on the street.

He said the notices will not be complied with, and the outcome could be a legal battle with Central Saanich.

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The 78-hectare Woodwynn Farms, at 7789 West Saanich Rd., offers programs for live-in participants who have dealt with homelessness or substance-abuse problems.

The program has been operating for 8 1Ú2 years.

“We can farm our farm — that hasn’t changed,” said Leblanc, who oversees Woodwynn Farms as executive director of the Creating Homefulness Society.

“The problem is that we’re a treatment centre for people at the same time, and we’re trying help people and have them live here off the streets.”

Residents have been living in the recreational vehicles, Leblanc said, adding that a proposal to build temporary housing for up to 40 farm workers was turned down by the Agricultural Land Commission.

The housing would have been on just one per cent of the land, he said.

Leblanc said the timing of the municipal notices couldn’t be much worse.

“It’s cold, it’s rainy and it’s Christmas,” he said. “It’s horrible all the way around.”

Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said the notices were handed out because of safety concerns, citing a recent fire in an RV. “Apparently no one was in it at the time, but it burned down.”

Windsor said the notices, posted on the RVs, washroom structures, greenhouse and accessory buildings, take effect immediately.

Municipal officials visited the farm after the RV fire and noted safety issues. Leblanc said the notices for the accessory buildings were the result of the officials’ concerns about permits. One notice indicates that buildings, plumbing and waste-disposal permits were not approved under the building bylaw.

Dan Fortin, 51, said the RV where he stays has become his home in the past two years and he has nowhere else to go.

He said he is now feeling guilty for sleeping in his own bed.

Farm resident Kylie Janzen, 35, said she has been working hard to get back to having a life with her daughter, and that Woodwynn Farms is able to change people’s lives.

“It’s good for me here,” said Janzen, who has been at the farm for about 14 months.

Having to leave would be “pretty devastating,” she said. “I still have lots to work on. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Central Saanich and the farm have been at odds before. The municipality placed a no-occupancy order on a barn in 2013 and filed a notice of civil claim in 2014 to try to shut the farm operation down.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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