Plans for a community garden in the Brentwood Bay neighbourhood of Central Saanich, the first of its kind in that community, are growing more concrete after council signaled support “in principle” for the idea with more details coming next year.
“As we are looking for densification in our community and specifically, the village of Brentwood Bay, there is a real need for something like this,” said Coun. Gordon Newton before he joined the rest of his colleagues voting in favour of the project. “I think the research that that they have done on this project has shown that.”
Staff will now work with the Central Saanich Community Gardens Society to turn 511 square-metres of publicly owned land at 1223 Clarke Rd. next to the Boys and Girls Club into a community garden that would allow residents without green space to grow their own food, starting with 15 to 20 individual plots with one or more communal plots. The group eventually plans to have 45 plots.
“We’re stoked to get going, anywhere and are grateful to the staff, council and mayor for the great job they did,” said Caroline Lennox, president and founder of the group that formed in May and already maintains a waiting list for plots.
Central Saanich staff chose Clarke Road as the best location from five sites, noting it meets several criteria including walkability as it would offer gardening opportunities to individuals living in high density areas.
According to a staff report, the site is the most central with 1,725 properties within a 1-km radius. “There are a number of strata units with minimal garden space; higher density residential proximity is a major factor in success for community garden,” it reads. The site is also near schools, a seniors centre, library and close to a public washroom at the cultural centre, while accessible by transit.
According to staff, the Boys and Girls Club has used the site in the past, but has other options available. The public also heard that the club would get a plot in the new community garden, with other groups including local schools and First Nations, also promised plots.
The project faces one legislative hurdle. Council would have to rezone the lot currently zoned residential to enable its future use as a community garden with the staff noting that “common concerns regarding community gardens include neighbours’ concerns about the visual appeal of the site.”
Community gardens have risen in profile and popularity in recent years, partly because of growing density, and Lennox said the group is looking to expand the concept to other parts of the community, as demand and resources allow. Lennox said the group is especially interested in having a site in Saanichton, but that will have to wait for now.
“It is more important to get started somewhere, anywhere, because without land we can’t apply for grants,” said Lennox.
Coun. Bob Thompons alluded to this aspect in acknowledging that the chosen site is likely smaller than what the group would have liked. “But it is important that we have a site that is fairly easy to access, and that the society will be able to demonstrate that they can be successful,” he said.
The public also heard Coun. Niall Paltiel draw attention to any potential financial liabilities for the municipality when he asked about assurances from the non-profit society that the project won’t lead to “the financial ask getting greater and greater” as operations become more challenging.
The public heard from staff that the society believes it could be sustainable within three years based on the experience of other community gardens, but also acknowledged the need for additional analysis.