A Saanich councillor says she opposes the exclusion of a former golf course from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Coun. Nathalie Chambers said keeping the former Royal Oak golf course in the ALR would help the local climate and food security in many ways.
Saanich, she said, finds itself in the middle of a climate change emergency, and Vancouver Island ranks among the most food insecure place in Canada, with two days of surplus food.
Keeping the former golf course in the ALR would maintain its soil as a carbon sink, she said, adding that the course also helps to maintain biodiversity by serving as a corridor for plants and animals.
“There are many considerations to make,” said Chambers.
Saanich continues to process an application from a numbered company filed in December 2017 to remove 85 per cent of the 27-acre lot — some 23 acres — from the ALR after purchasing it for $3.5 million in 2017. Victoria-based developer Denis Mamic and Saskatchewan-based Dwayne Walbaum are partners that own the numbered company 1122590 BC Ltd.
Mamic said he and his partner have no firm plans for the property beyond building what he calls a “mixed-use development” that may include a public component. “If it comes out [of the ALR], the possibilities are open,” he said. “That could include Saanich.”
It is not clear yet whether Mamic and Walbaum will be able to do anything on the site. More than 18 months after filing their application, they are still waiting on an answer from Saanich. Assuming an affirmative response from the municipality, their proposal will then appear before the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Questions about the fate of the property appear against the backdrop of concerns about local food security and ecological conservation. Ross Blackwell, a consultant working for the owners, who had spent the better part of a decade working for the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), said two separate reports, one authored by him, have found that the lot is neither capable nor suitable for agricultural production.
Chambers, a farmer herself, disagrees, citing her own experiences as an operator with her husband David. “These are the same soils that David and I started with at Madrona Farm,” she said.