Plan promotes local growers

North Saanich can get growing its Whole Community Agricultural Strategy.

The draft plan okayed by council includes a series of priority actions and community actions. For council the top five are: ensure municipal bylaws support agriculture; create an agriculture webpage; represent local and regional interests in food and agriculture; undertake an agricultural economic development plan and support independent local agricultural organizations.

“We have clear policy objectives that we can pursue,” said mayor Alice Finall. “The specific priority actions I’m particularly pleased with.”

Councillor Dunstan Browne commended staff for the “comprehensive report, well put together.”

“When I see acquire the Sandown racetrack for agricultural purposes; I see support establishment of farmland trust; and I see money for housing and permanent site for farmer’s market, all these priority actions have a financial impact on us,” he added. “I don’t see anywhere where it says how it’s going to affect our finances.”

He was assured that the document doesn’t commit council to funding any of the actions outlined in the document.

Finall noted that items such as ensuring bylaws support agriculture, or adding an agriculture component to the district’s website don’t require as much financial backing.

“One of our biggest things we can do for agriculture is support it with our bylaws and policies,” said councillor Anny Scoones, who often crafts motions for council to take to the Union of BC Muncipalities and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (the AVICC annual convention was held in Sidney April 8, 9, and 10 this year).

During public participation only a couple members of the public cited issues.

One was Janet Rook, who connected the plan with a lack of attainable housing in the district.

“I can appreciate growing and encouraging local food … I support that, but we need to look beyond that,” Rook said.

Fran Hackett was concerned that the indication of edible landscaping for developments would be a burden.

“I would be looking anywhere but North Saanich before I develop anything,” she said.

Council was assured that the document is much like the Official Community Plan, a guiding document for the community.

“It definitely is a region wide issue around the CRD, but it’s a bigger conversation and it’s really affordable living,” said councillor Ruby Commandeur.

View the entire document online at www.northsaanich.ca

Notable ‘priority actions’

Acquiring Sandown raceway for agricultural uses is on the list of priority actions. The reason: important parcels of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve could be publicly acquired to ensure they aren’t removed or alienated from farming.

Allow and encourage beehives: could be achived by making the keeping of bee hives a permitted use in all zones in the muncipality and informing the public via the web page.

Provide a site for a permanent farmers market; which would require land and zoning.

The least expensive, and one already underway at KELSET is ‘encourage local schools to teach students about farming.’