Homefulness project to proceed with tents on Woodwynn Farms

Agricultural Land Commission rejects proposal to turn buildings into housing for Victoria's homeless community

Within weeks, Richard Leblanc of Woodwynn Farms will begin recruiting people from Victoria’s homeless community to start a new chapter in their life, working on an organic farm and sleeping in tents on his farm in Central Saanich.

Campsites are a far cry from the housing he hoped to build, but Leblanc calls it an interim step in his Creating Homefulness Society’s vision.

Two weeks ago, the Agricultural Land Commission rejected the society’s application to build housing for 120 people on the farm on one per cent of the land.

According to its decision, released April 21, the commission does not believe housing needs to be located within the Agricultural Land Reserve, given the proximity of land outside the reserve.

“The commission is approached by similar organizations with varying degrees of agriculture as part of their programming on a regular basis and is very wary of permitting this type of institutional use within the ALR,” the decision reads.

On Tuesday night, the Creating Homefulness Society board met to regroup.

“This is a major disappointment,” said Leblanc, the society’s executive director. The board, however, is “undaunted,” he said.

The farm is zoned for approximately 10 campsites. That means Leblanc can still create a community on the farm – it just won’t be as comfortable.

“We’re going to bring on some Porta-Pottys and a fire pit,” he said.

Eventually, Leblanc plans to resubmit a new application to the commission.

As well as housing, his proposal included repurposing 16 structures on the farm into a processing plant to make jams and jellies, a café and office rooms.

The society’s goal is to diversify the farms’ products to decrease its dependence on government grants and to teach a variety of skills, including farming, service and administrative.

The board’s change in course also has repercussions for Leblanc himself.

For the past 80 nights, Leblanc has slept in a van downtown as part of his campaign. He’d committed to living this way until 2,012 people wrote letters of support and the same number donated 99 cents a day to the cause.

“It’s forcing me to shift gears,” he said. “If we’re having far more activity on the land, then I need to shift my attentions and energies and time back to Woodwynn.”

While looking forward to returning to a warm, soft bed and a shower, Leblanc said, “I’m disappointed that we didn’t bring it to the end we originally hoped.”

At the same time, he said, dialogue in the community about Woodwynn “went through the roof.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Saanich rental project wins silver by going ‘green’

The Verve rental housing project stands at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue

Volunteers needed for annual Mother’s Day walk

Breast Cancer Society of Canada hosts annual Mother’s Day event

Sidney Lions dish $4,000 to help build on growing trishaw bike charity

Cycling Without Age Society draws attention as far off as Washington

420 celebrations turn over new leaf at B.C. legislature

Cannabis is legal for the first time in the 21-year existence of the 420 event in Victoria

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

Most Read