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Farm hit with civil suit
Central Saanich council announced Monday that the municipality filed a notice of claims in the B.C. Supreme Court against Woodwynn Farms on June 30.
The claim, which was read as a rise and report during Monday night’s council meeting, stems from allegations by the district that the farm’s owner Richard Leblanc has been using property contrary to the district’s bylaws and permitting structures, including using farm land for office purposes, institution uses, camping and recreational vehicle and mobile home use. Also noted was the use of a barn, cited by the municipality as being unsafe for occupation. In March, Central Saanich issued a no occupancy notice for the barn, which was being used as a market, coffee shop and snack bar. Included in the notice of claim, the District stated the farm owner has neglected to rid the property of a noxious weed, as required by the municipality.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,” said Leblanc in an interview with the PNR. “It’s in the hands of our attorneys now and I’ll be working with them to get some answers as to how to proceed with this.
Leblanc added that work begins now for the farm to get a legal time frame in place and then work on a defence.
“The most important thing is that here on the ground it’s business as usual. We’re committed here on the land to help people from the streets and give them a warm place to sleep as well as three healthy meals a day. That won’t change,” he said.
The farm had requested an allowance from the municipality in 2011 to use two acres of the 193 acre farm land to erect housing. The request was rejected at the municipal level and Leblanc was told he must first seek permission from the Agricultural Land Commission, standard procedure for any alterations to land zoning in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Since then, Leblanc said municipal bylaw enforcement has been present at the farm but the notice of claim came as a surprise.
“It’s unfortunate it has come to this,” he said.
“I would say less than half of the current council members have stepped foot on Woodwynn and it’s hard not to feel like these decisions are being made from an arm’s length perspective. The need for a community like this is great and it isn’t going away and it’s important for Central Saanich to help find a solution.”
In the meantime, Leblanc said, he is encouraging members of the public to come out and see what Woodwynn Farms Therapeutic Community is all about.
“We’ll continue to invite people in, we plan to continue the education and have people visit us to see what the therapeutic community is all about. That’s a crucial part of the process here.”
Leblanc maintains that the therapeutic community isn’t violating any laws.
“What we do here, these are legitimate farm uses. We are working hard to convert this into a productive farm. Every farmer in the province is looking for ways to diversify.”