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Central Saanich compost-sales pitch gets an airing

Dec 02 2012

Neighbours of the region's only commercial composting plant are expected to raise a stink at a Central Saanich public hearing next week.

A proposed bylaw change would allow landowners within the Agricultural Land Reserve to sell half of the compost generated on their farms. The current land-use bylaw stipulates that all compost must be used on the property where it is generated.

Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson said council regularly hears from residents who are concerned about odours from Foundation Organics. The commercial facility is part of Stanhope-Wedgewood Farm at 6341 Old East Rd., and is licensed to accept 10,000 tonnes of organic material annually.

There are concerns a bylaw change would allow similar facilities to sprout up or that the current operation will generate more of a smell than it already does.

"The smell that's there now isn't from composting; it's from cattle," said Matthew Mansell, half-owner of Foundation Organics and friend of the farm owners.

Stanhope-Wedgewood Farm has been in that location since 1956 and is home to 200 head of dairy cattle.

The composting facility opened in August 2011, but there were numerous petitions from neighbours complaining about farm smells before then, Mansell said.

"[Complaints] are nothing new," he said.

The composting facility accepts organic material from the public by charging a tip fee. It also accepts organic waste from Thrifty Foods, BFI Waste Management, Eurosa Gardens, the CRD, Oak Bay, View Royal, various market stores and Wal-Mart.

Farms have to find ways to generate revenue and the composting operation is a viable option, Mansell said.

"It would be really nice if we were greens-keepers so the people could look at nice green fields, but unfortunately, that doesn't pay the bills," he said.

Residents routinely call Central Saanich Municipal Hall to voice their concerns, said the mayor, adding that the CRD has licenced Foundation Organics and the CRD is responsible for fielding complaints.

"I've raised this issue on a number of occasions at the CRD board," Bryson said in a recent interview.

The CRD is responsible for following up on complaints and working with the facility owner to minimize negative impacts on the neighbours, said Larisa Hutcheson, CRD manager of Environment Sustainability.

Stanhope-Wedgewood is one of the largest farms on the Saanich Peninsula and its operations invariably attract attention from neighbours, Mansell said.

The farm spreads compost on its fields to supplement other fertilizers. It's also used as bedding in the barns. The soiled bedding is recomposted and sold to gardeners as farm waste, which is legal, Mansell said.

The public hearing is set for 6: 30 p.m. on Thursday at the Central Saanich Fire Training Centre, 1903 Mt.

Newton Cross Rd. smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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