Maber Flats in Central Saanich. (File)

Maber Flats in Central Saanich. (File)

Central Saanich advised to keep mum on Maber Flats agricultural plan

Central Saanich’s Maber Flats agricultural plan on hold until Aug. 21

  • Aug. 15, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Tim Collins/ News staff

The level of frustration over Central Saanich council’s inability to resolve issue of water management in Maber Flats continues to grow, and now councillors have been advised to refrain from making any public statements regarding the issue, for fear of generating further litigation against the municipality or prejudicing existing legal action.

Councillor Bob Thompson, when asked for his comments on council’s July 31 decision to put several aspects of the Maber Flats controversy on hold pending further study and review, refused to offer any opinion of the situation.

“We have been advised by our municipal legal counsel that we shouldn’t say anything until they have a chance to review the situation, so no comment. I understand we may have something in place by next (Monday) (August 21) and will make some comments then,” said Thompson.

August 21 is also the date for a meeting at municipal hall with all the stakeholders of the Maber Flats controversy.

Larry Sluggett of Sluggett Farm, said that it’s a meeting he will most certainly attend.

“This has been going on for 20 years and it’s been a very frustrating experience,” he explained. “This is a beautiful piece of property with deep organic soil and they want to put a retention pond over 25 acres of it, putting it under water without knowing that it’s going to make any difference in the long run.”

At the July 31 meeting, Thompson appeared to share the concern that council still didn’t have enough information to make a decision.

“We don’t want to go down a road where we spend $60,000 dollars on a study (on the Maber Flats retention facility) and then find that we have to do a 90 degree turn and do something else,” he said during the discussion on the issue.

Jack Marr, a member of the Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission, has gone on record as opposing the retention pond concept as well.

“This has been going on for over 20 years and with so many competing issues going on. I think there’s a danger that the value of this beautiful piece of land will be overlooked. You don’t take 25 acres of some of the best farmland in the province and put it under water,” he said.

The District of Central is already facing legal action from the owners of Silver Rill Corn. Ltd. who have registered a civil claim in which they allege that the District’s ongoing allowance of residential and commercial development in the Maber Flats area has led to increased flooding of their land, rendering it “unfarmable”. The District also recently ended another property owner’s request to add soil to a portion of their property within the Maber Flats area.

Beyond the issue of the farmland’s value, Thompson is on record at the July 31 meeting as wanting to find a solution to the issue that respects the concerns of a variety of interest groups. He cited the fact that there are “farming, environmental, birding, and First Nations groups, all involved” and asked how they could be kept involved so council isn’t left with the kind of fractious debate that has characterized the ongoing controversy at Island View Beach.