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

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in Victoria

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

Public packs Victoria mosque during B.C.’s Open Mosque Day

‘The best way to deal with fear is to educate. That’s what we are trying to do here’

Vancouver Island First Nations Youth Ambassadors deliver message to the United Nations

The delegation appeared at an event celebrating ‘the rich tapestry of global cultural diversity’

Turning pro on the Island

Pacific FC’s Brad Norris-Jones talks about his journey to pro sports in Victoria

Fitness and health programming drew more than 12,000 participants in Saanich

New report also finds a gender split in programming

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. VIEWS: Power politics wins over rational energy policy

B.C Hydro continues to face interference on rates

PR firm suspends contract with former B.C. premier amid groping accusation

Edelman says in a statement that Campbell has served as a special adviser to the firm since last July

James says B.C. budget puts priorities on NDP’s poverty, environment plans

She said she expected the government’s poverty reduction and climate change strategies to be priorities in the budget

PHOTOS: Day 1 of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer

Games kicked off in Red Deer this week

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Pavelski’s 31st goal helps Sharks top Canucks 3-2

Vancouver one point out of second NHL wild-card spot

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Most Read