Land held in trust for the University of Victoria is making an Agricultural Land Reserve subdivision application to the District of North Saanich.
The plan, says Danny Carrier, is not to remove the land from the ALR but to change boundaries to create two similar-sized parcels of land to use for agricultural purposes. Carrier, a spokesperson for land development and consulting firm J.E. Anderson and Associates, told council’s committee of the whole on Feb. 25 the boundary change will be to increase the agricultural potential of the land. Essentially, it will remove a right-of-way to create two lots of nearly the same size on either side of Mainwaring Road, between East Saanich Road and the Pat Bay Highway.
The land, said Carrier, was left in trust to the university in the will of the owner.
The will, he continued, said the land should someday be developed and removed from the ALR — and only left as agricultural land after 25 years following the owner’s death, or if there’s no chance the land can be taken out of the ALR.
As an agent for the trustee, Carrier said their application could clear the way to make it easier to find someone to run a farm or other agricultural operation on the property.
Mayor Alice Finall noted the current application appears to be in conflict with the will, which asks that the land be developed.
“There is no hidden agenda here,” said Carrier.
“The executor believes the land will not be (removed from the ALR) in the future and will seek out the best and most profitable use of agricultural land.”
Carrier added his understanding is that the trustee of the will and the university have agreed on this path.
He said the trustee of the property is also distancing itself from a proposal to turn a portion of the land into a care facility, as proposed by the Saanich Peninsula Housing and Senior Care Society.
That proposal was to use 16.5 acres, remove it from the ALR and turn it into a variety of seniors care facilities and multi-unit housing.
Society president Rebecca Vermeer was at the committee meeting and said indications in the past were that the trustee was going to sell the eastern portion of the property once the ALR application was approved. As a result of Carrier’s comments, she said the Society now doesn’t support their application to council.
Councillor Elsie McMurphy said she is supportive of the new plan but noted the district does have strict and binding ALR rules that might prevent the application fro moving forward.
However, she and the rest of council agreed to send the application to their agricultural advisory commission for its recommendation.
“Nothing in the staff report,” said Coun. Dunstan Browne, “disputes the use set out by (Carrier), or suggests denying the application. It would fit, if used for agricultural purposes.”