At their January 14 Regular Council meeting, elected officials considered a staff-generated report recommending that Council reject an application for exlude the lot at 7166 West Coast Road from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Ultimately, the elected officials supported the staff recommendation. The public was invited to speak before council arrived at their final decision, and different viewpoints were presented.
The matter opened with staff giving a report on the request for ALR Exclusion at 7166 West Coast Road. Their ultimate recommendation was that Council forward the application to the Agricultural Land Commission with a recommendation to reject the application for the Agricultural Land Reserve exclusion. One letter of opposition (O’Farrell-Becker Submission) had been submitted to Council for consideration.
Following the staff presentation, the floor was opened to public input:
Cynthia Carlsen, speaking on the interest of the land owner, said she did a line-by-line review of the file and noted many inconsistencies, and much missing information.
She noted that this property seems to be getting confused with other properties. The lot being considered at Council at this meeting was not the potential feedlot yard at 2136 West Coast Road, but the neighbouring lot. This particular lot in question wasn’t good for much of anything at all, including just growing hay.
Carlsen noted that the property received a 4F soil rating, which is really really poor. A 2017 Stantec report received by SPN includes the following statement: “The laboratory data for the Property reports the pH as less than 5 and results in a 4F rating (severe fertility limitations). The 4F rating is improvable with intensive management including liming and fertilization, particularly for this soil type.” The report further notes that the soil is improvable to a 3W rating. Carlsen added that over 150 HA have been pulled out of Phillips Rd, and they were only a 2 rating.
Carlsen also noted that the Staff report did not include the September 2017 report from Stantec. She noted that long-term owners, who have been on that land since 1956, have tried to keep the soil usable but the improper runoffs from neighbouring properties have been further eroding the soil.
And she noted that there has never been a boots-on-the-ground assessment done of the property by either the Agricultural Land Committee (ALC) or the District of Sooke. The only zoning that was ever done was done by aerial footage.
For these reasons, and a feeling that the complete picture had not been presented to the District, Carlsen asked for a delay on the decision and requested that further reading and research be done.
Presenting another perspective from from the public was Mary Ellis Johnson, local farmer for 35 years, who herself was farming on land that is considered very poor quality. She noted that Sooke has already taken more land out of the ALR than any other district in BC, and urged that this practice be stopped. We should keep this land in the ALR, she said.
Last up was David Bush, who said these are long-term land owners who have been trying for years to make this land viable. The runoff from development around the property has rendered even hay as non-option. He reiterated Carlsen’s position, that this property’s soil had a class 4F rating. It should not be in the ALR, he said. They have two properties. This is one, and it can’t even grow hay. Bush maintained that this lot could be used by the District of Sooke for growth, be it light industrial or residential. This is land not fit for agriculture, currently not fit for anyone. In moving it of out of the ALR, it could benefit everyone.
Following the public discussion, conversation turned back to Council. Staff made it clear that Council had a number of options in making their recommendation to the ALC: They could recommend rejection, or they could forward it without a recommendation. Either way, the ALC would still consider the staff report submitted by the District. Staff also noted that it was not the District that reviewed soil suitability, that that was something that fell to the ALC.
Mayor Tait noted that at an earlier Committee of the Whole meeting, both lots were lumped together. Tait noted that no property can have run-off that can affect another property. She asked staff, If there is run-off ruining this property, what action is open to the landowner? Staff noted that the drainage is all in the report. Tait noted if that was happening, they haven’t received any notification of the matter. Tait noted that historically, the request was always delivered with a threat of a pig farm. This combative approach has not done the applicant any good.
Councillor Logins moved staff recommendation, which was seconded by Councillor McMath.
Councillor Beddows struggled with the fact that no one has ever walked the property, including the ALC. He felt, though, it was ultimately the ALC’s decision to make. He would have preferred a motion that stated “No Recommendation,” but indicated that he would support the motion to reject exclusion.
Councillor Bateman also noted it was a decision for the ALC. Bateman noted this piece of land one of several properties in a a designated ALR region in Sooke. Bateman is not a fan of taking land out of the land reserve.
Councillor Parkinson asked about process. All of the information gets forwarded to the ALC “for the next step.”
Councillor St-Pierre noted that commercial agriculture will not work in that site, and the aerial survey does feel unfair.
Councillor McMath asked if input and feedback from the neighbours would be forwarded to the ALC. No, said staff, but noted that the ALR requires advertising notification that includes a request for input from the public.
When a final decision was made by the ALC, the District would recieve a copy of their decision.
The motion carried unanimously, and was followed by another motion to invite the ALC to come to a council meeting to make a presentation. This also carried unanimously.
Present: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson, and Tony St-Pierre
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- Sooke seals the deal, allows temporary use permits in Gateway area
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- Sooke settles on two-seater Timberwolf toilets at John Phillips Memorial Park