Rural lands are worth protecting.
Such is the reason the Agricultural Land Commission oversees B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve – a protected space that has been altered, but rarely shrunken in almost four decades.
Two current North Saanich proposals affect the ALR. One would take 12 acres of land on the Sandown property removed from the reserve, but 12 acres elsewhere would be added to the ALR.
Meanwhile, the Saanich Peninsula Abbeyfield Houses Society, which runs care facilities for seniors, is also applying to have land carved out of the ALR. In this case, though, no land would be exchanged back in.
The Abbeyfield proposal is a worthy cause. It would create much-needed beds for seniors with dementia, while incorporating an agricultural therapy element for its residents.
The project would tie in with some requirements for agricultural land, yet removing the land from the ALR leaves it vulnerable to future changes, including rezoning.
While moves to take land out of the ALR for deserving projects should be considered on a case-by-case basis, such proposals should virtually always put as much back in as they take out. As development increasingly creeps toward ALR boundaries, protecting the beauty and productivity of reserved land will become even more important in coming years.
Abbeyfield’s seniors facility belongs in North Saanich, but the society should consider purchasing property from a non-ALR land owner.
Peninsula residents and municipal councils must steadfastly protect ALR land, even if it means worthwhile projects have to jump through a few extra hoops.