There has been some talk about a feedlot possibly coming to Sooke.
The proposed feedlot would take up one to two acres on a 5.47 acre lot, located at 6912 West Coast Road. The feedlot would run along one third the length of Tominny Road. This land is situated opposite to the Prestige Hotel.
The current owner, Anthony Laughren (currently residing in Alberta) is looking to monetize his lands currently contained in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). He currently owns 6912 West Coast Road (along Tominny) and is on title (in trust) for the land at 7166 West Coast Road (across John Muir Elementary School).
He approached the District with a proposal (below) last year. He is asking for their support in an application to remove the lands from the ALR. If these lands cannot be removed, they will be monetized through a feedlot.
Sooke PocketNews spoke with Laughren’s representative, Stephanie Davidson, to get the details.
“The landowner is offering to donate two acres of land to the community in exchange for District support in having 6912 West Coast Road and 7166 West Coast Road (approximately 10 acres) removed from the ALR,” explains Davidson. “In addition to the two free acres, he would donate a 28.17 acre parcel of land on Kemp Lake Road into the ALR, in order to not only offset but add approximately 12 acres of farmland to the community.” According to Davidson, this parcel of land on Kemp Lake Road is much more suitable for farming.
The two properties on West Coast Road they wish to have removed from the ALR are not suited for agriculture.
“I can provide documentation to show these lands are considered to have ‘marginal soil’ and are not ‘economically viable for agricultural purposes’,” writes Laughren in an October 2016 proposal to the District of Sooke.
There have been two previous applications to remove the 6912 lot from the ALR by a previous owner, Ed Shaw. The 2006 application was refused because the land a “prime capacity for agriculture” and the Commission noted an “absence of community needs.” In 2011, Council supported the application, but the application was refused by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The current owner has attempted to work with the District on a new application (new owner, new application) and Davidson met with the CAO in February, March and August 2016. Davidson attended the OCP open house in October, where she hand-delivered the current proposal (below). Davidson was referred to other staff, where she was told she needed to speak with Council.
“I have never heard from any member of council, nor has the landowner,” says Davidson. That’s when the feedlot option began being explored in earnest. She said they are currently planning a feedlot that will house anywhere from 30 to 60 cattle, on a one-two-two acre range.
Saanich faced a similar situation when the Alberg family had low quality farm land in the ALR. To monetize it, they built the 20-cattle Gordon Head Feedlot on four acres in 2013. The neighbours complained, fervently. According to the several 2015 articles in the Times Colonist (here, here, and here), Saanich Council did have influence. Council agreed to rezone the land prior to the Alberg’s application to remove the land from the ALR, and the Saanich Council supported the Alberg’s application to remove the land from the ALR.
“In July , Saanich council voted to remove the family farm from the ALR to allow the residential development. The Agricultural Land Commission had the final decision.”
Davidson, in consultation with Don Alberg, maintains that Sooke Council can have influence. They may not have final authority, but support has influence.
“It’s about not taking ‘No’ for an answer,” Davidson says. “Municipalities and districts do have influence and power; they just need to put in the effort if it is in the best interest of the community they represent.”
And, if refused, there are other options according to Davidson.
“If an application is turned down by the Commission, municipalities and districts have the ability to request that the Chair of the ALC reverse or override the decision of the Committee. The Chair has the authority to do this if they see fit.” Failing that, claims Davidson, the District can escalate it.
Councillor Kevin Pearson spoke with SPN about the feedlot.
Making is clear that he was representing only his point of view and not that of Council, Pearson said he would consider supporting an application to remove the lands from the ALR.
“I have no issue with this application whatsoever,” he said. Pearson sees his job as coming to the table without bias, and hearing the applicants.
At a recent budget Council meeting, it was said that if growth continues at the current rate, Sooke should be reaching “city” status (15,000) by the next census. It could be argued that the “absence of Community Need” stated in the 2006 ALC rejection is now very much the reverse: Sooke is growing rapidly.
Pearson considers the area south of Grant Road between West Coast Road and Otter Point to be a “natural growth area,” with ready access to the Sooke sewer system, electricity and emergency services (fire and ambulance). The infrastructure for the most part already exists.
Pearson is pro-development, “but,” he clarifies, “it has to be smart growth.” By this he means it has to be environmentally friendly, and it has to be planned.
He encourages the current landowner (who would be represented by Stephanie Davidson) to go before Council at a regular meeting. An application for Delegation (audience with Council) would have to be made and approved by staff. Pearson noted the former “Land Use Committee” would have been an ideal starting point for the conversation with the District, but this committee (along with a host of others) no longer exist.
Pearson is open to hearing from the applicants, and trusts that the process will lead to the right decision for the community.
“We may not always agree [on an issue],” said Pearson, “but with healthy debate and community caring we should get to the right place.”
If a feedlot is the final outcome, Pearson wonders about the economic viability. He states that there is no slaughterhouse on the Island, and that the movement of cattle would be an expensive business undertaking. He also points out that everyone who bought homes on Tominny knew it was ALR land behind them, and farm life in their backyard was always a possible risk.
Davidson indicated to SPN that a Delegation (audience) with the District of Sooke is an option. This can happen as early as April 10 (it’s too late for the March 27 Council meeting as the application would have had to be in by Tuesday March 21). Given that Davidson would be traveling in from Port McNeill (a 5 hour and 25 minute drive according to Google Maps) to present for five minutes before council, some planning (along with confirmation of the Delegation) is required.
“We are all in,” Davidson assured SPN, in speaking to their readiness to start a feedlot. They have the finances all lined up. The trees will be removed from the 6912 West Coast Road lot as soon as the ground dries enough to handle the equipment.
And after that, they will be installing fence-posts. They have consulted with the District of Sooke, and the only fencing limitation is that it doesn’t exceed six feet in height. The land is currently an ALR designated property, so a feedlot would fall within acceptable use.
Once this fence work begins, says Davidson, they are at the point of no return. A feedlot will be coming to Sooke.
Have your say!
The public can only speak to items on an agenda determined by staff and council. However, the mayor recently instituted a Public Input forum, giving the public the opportunity to speak to any items of concern. These Public Input forums are held an hour before all Regular Council meetings. The next Public Input opportunity is on Monday, March 27, 2017 between 6:00 p.m. and 6:40 p.m.
What is a feedlot?
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a feedlot is the final pre-slaughter destination for animals (in this case cattle; pigs might be considered at a later date, at the lot across from John Muir Elementary). According to Stephanie Davidson, representing the land owner, “it is generally a small area that houses as many cattle that you can fit in so they get fat and do not gain too much muscle mass. It is that last stop before the slaughter house. It is noisy, it is smelly, and it creates vermin and fecal dust.” More information here.
Proposal from the current landowner