Central Saanich residents rankled over compost operation

Stanhope Organics still in people’s crosshairs; District awaits court date next year.

A sign at Stanhope Organics advertises the farm receives clean wood waste and produces ‘composted manure products’.

Although the stink of compost has somewhat subsided, neighbours of Stanhope Organics in Central Saanich are concerned about the use of construction materials on the site, calling it unlawful.

Reinvented as Stanhope Organics from Stanhope/Foundation Organics, the company has been operating as a commercial composting facility, or what some neighbours refer to as a ‘dump’ on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land.

Neighbours and members of the Tanner Ridge, Martindale and Hunt Valley Coalition are concerned about the construction materials they say are being brought onto the site by large trucks. They have expressed frustration the operation isn’t abiding by the rules and regulations set out before them by the District of Central Saanich.

“As far as we know they are selling (compost), which is against a Central Saanich bylaw and they are bringing in construction waste, which is against the ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) stop work order of 2014,” said Michele Bond, one of the neighbours who also lives on the commercial truck route.

She wanted to be clear that they aren’t stopping Stanhope from farming.

“I think our main issue is that if we all have to be in compliance with rules and regulations, so should they. They’re running a commercial business on agricultural land, paying agricultural taxes and it’s not fair to other commercial businesses.”

Lee Hardy and Ray Baker are also part of the Coalition who live adjacent to the Stanhope property. Hardy said the ALC has done a poor job in enforcing their own stop work order.

“They gave them a very clear direction of what they were allowed to do and what they’re expected to do and they have really dropped the ball,” she told the PNR.

Hardy said people who walk or bike from Island View Road to Stanhope in the middle of the road think it’s a trail, but there are giant trucks travelling to Stanhope bringing construction debris one after the other.

“So now Central Saanich is trying to fix that as well as enforce their own bylaws, which is that they can’t sell what they call compost — which is really ground up garbage,” said Hardy.

The farm has been around for over 50 years in the same family.

Stanhope Organic’s lawyer, Lindsey LeBlanc of Victoria firm Cox Taylor, said the farm’s use predates the bylaw which the District seeks to enforce.

She said the farm  has always sold manure, always having cattle on the property.

Bond said the other government body that has let them down is the Capital Regional District (CRD).

“They spent thousands of taxpayers dollars on bylaw officers sitting there, on court cases, on different things, and then they’ve just decided to step out of the case — which they may have a very good reason — but we’ve been involved in it,” said Bond.

The composting, she said, has stopped but Stanhope is still carrying on what she calls ‘illegal’ operations. Odour from the farm, which led to the company’s problems, is not completely gone. Bond said  recently residents dealt with odour for a few days in a row.

“The  CRD has taken the complaint form off their website because they are not bringing in food,” she said, adding the operation is bringing in green waste — which they are allowed to do — and they’re allowed to grind that up for the bedding for their cows.

“As far as we know from the stop work order of the agricultural land commission, they are not allowed to bring in construction waste …” she said.

She and other neighbours say the farm is using construction waste as compost.

Bond said the Coalition had received no response from complaints sent to the ALC.

“We’ve been complaining to them that (Stanhope is) bringing in this construction waste. We know that is against the stop work order of 2014 …”

The District of Central Saanich has a lawsuit pending against Stanhope Organics. A court date is set for February 2017

“We believe that they are contravening municipal bylaws,” said Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Robbins.

In its notice of claim, the District alleges the operation is in contravention of municipal bylaws and they want the company to stop producing compost and selling it. There is also an order to have Stanhope prevent odour from its property.

Stanhope has filed a statement of defence, according to their law firm.

“We would like to see more support for Central Saanich. I think the council now has figured it out and is on the right track,” said Hardy.

“I think, really, my biggest gripe is that everybody didn’t come together in the beginning to deal with and take ownership of the piece of the puzzle. It’s grown out of control.”