A plan to break from the ALR

Abbeyfield seniors housing proposal would slice about 17 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve, if approved by North Saanich

In its more than 30-year history, the Agricultural Land Reserve’s boundaries have been altered many times and for many reasons.

“It looks to me that it’s a case-by-case basis,” says Rebecca Vermeer, board member for Abbeyfield Houses Society, pointing to the map spread out on the table.

She hopes the District of North Saanich and the Agricultural Land Commission will consider a campus of care development a worthy venture for the removal of lands from the ALR. Saanich Peninsula Abbeyfield wants to build the facility on property at 9025 Mainwaring Rd., which is in the ALR.

“They are close to existing development,” Vermeer said. “It was never used for agriculture because the land was too valuable to be profitable for agriculture.”

There is, however, an agricultural element to the proposal for complex care seniors housing, which would include high-level care for dementia patients.

“We’re going to set aside quite a large area for agricultural therapy for our residents.”

Abbeyfield will seek interim financing, with the loans paid by selling a portion of the land removed from the ALR. The plan would see three half-acre lots developed in hopes of earning more than $1 million to finance the original purchase of the land.

“This is the last and, I think, only opportunity to get something that is so desirable. There’s tremendous demand for complex care on the Peninsula,” Vermeer said.

“It’s a home. It’s a farm environment. People don’t feel like they’re living in an institution,” she said of Abbeyfield-style housing. “They bond as a family. They support each other.”

Vermeer said the land is ideal for the situation, being close to the transit hub at McTavish Road, the recreation centre, the Town of Sidney and a healthy supply of possible volunteers.

Current permitted uses on the land, which is zoned rural agricultural, include horse riding stables, nurseries, single-family residential, farm retail and the boarding of cats or dogs.

“It’s good for breeding cats and dogs. It’s good for horses. But it’s not good for old people,” Vermeer said of the allowable land uses. “I’m proposing a campus of care for old people.”

While the plan doesn’t detail the number of beds that would be provided, she noted they would have about eight acres to work with. A similar complex, the Priory in Langford, provides 150 beds on six acres.

“There’s a big demand and not sufficient places for dementia. I believe this is the only chance we will have to develop such a community care facility.”

The only problem she foresees is sewage. “There would have to be some infrastructure development related to sewer … but that is something that can be developed with infrastructure grants from the federal government.”

If North Saanich council doesn’t support the concept, Vermeer admitted the chances of the proposal being accepted are diminished.

“If North Saanich doesn’t support it, there’s zero chance,” she said. “If council doesn’t support it, we wouldn’t go for (the application to the ALC).”

Visit www.abbeyfieldsaanichpeninsula.org for online information.




• Then

Saanich Peninsula Abbeyfield was originally interested in buying 34 acres in two parallel lots in North Saanich, bounded by the Pat Bay Highway to the east and East Saanich Road to the west, with Mainwaring Road bisecting them. Both are included in the ALR.

• Now

The organization hopes to purchase half of the land. It was part of a will containing a provision that the beneficiary hold the 16.79-acre lot for an extended period of time.


Did you know?

Initially the ALR comprised 4.7 million hectares (five per cent of the province).

Despite boundary changes over the decades, its area remains approximately the same.

The Agricultural Land Reserve was established between 1974 to 1976 through co-operative efforts with regional districts and member municipalities.


What do you think?

Send a letter to the editor to editor@peninsulanewsreview.com or comment online at www.peninsulanewsreview.com.

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