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Central Saanich council orders Woodwynn Farm to dismantle camp

Aug 09 2012
Tents have been erected at Woodwynn Farm without permission from Central Saanich council. 

Tents have been erected at Woodwynn Farm without permission from Central Saanich council.

Photograph by: Victoria Times Colonist , July 2012

Tents remain standing in a hayfield at Woodwynn Farm with no sign they will be taken down, despite a letter from Central Saanich council ordering that the camp be dismantled.

You must discontinue the use of the property as a campground on or before Aug. 7, says the letter from Central Saanich.

But Richard Leblanc, executive director of the Creating Homefulness Society that is behind the camp, is adamant it is doing valuable work and will not close.

No, it is not closing, he said.

The society wants to create a therapeutic farm community housing up to 96 former street people, plus staff, on the 78-hectare property at the corner of West Saanich Road and Mount Newton Cross Road.

An application to the Agricultural Land Commission to rezone one hectare of the property to allow housing was opposed by council and subsequently rejected by the ALC.

Both sides in the long-running dispute are contemplating their next moves.

Leblanc said he would apply for a temporary farm camping permit, provided some conditions were waived.

The conditions they threw at us before were unacceptable, but I am looking forward to another discussion, he said.

The districts farm camping rules prohibit stays of more than 30 consecutive days in one year.

Central Saanich acting mayor Adam Olsen suggested the society could apply for a temporary-use permit that allows structures without foundations or building slabs to be used for three years, with the possibility of a three-year renewal.

To achieve that, council has to bring it to an open council meeting and folks in the neighborhood have to be notified in the same way as a development permit, Olsen said.

It would be a way to achieve short-term housing and build confidence in the neighbourhood, he said.

Its certainly an option, he said. It would involve doing a lot of work in the neighbourhood.

In a letter delivered to Central Saanich Municipal Hall this week by a group of volunteers, Leblanc said the camp has hosted 12 people for a total of 93 nights and some have shown substantial improvement.

We presume that the District will not press forward with its intention of enforcing the bylaw as we continue to extend a compassionate hand and that Woodwynn is free to continue its social mandate while this application process is ongoing, he wrote.

We are hopeful that we can move forward with the District in a proactive and positive fashion with a view to ameliorating the increasingly difficult situation facing Central Saanich and other communities in addressing the question of homelessness.

Close to Home, a group lobbying for the therapeutic community and offering support to families of those who are homeless or suffering from addictions or mental illness, has asked to address Central Saanich council on Monday evening.


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