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Land commission next stop on farm's road to development

Dec 12 2012

The Alberg family has plenty of support for its efforts to develop a Mount Douglas Cross Road property that, despite being in the Agricultural Land Reserve, is largely encircled by homes.

The Albergs have owned the 1.64-hectare site since 1945 and used it for growing fruit trees, raising chickens and grazing cattle. Those sorts of activities were phased out by 2005, and long-held plans to develop the land came to the forefront.

"We've been at it for five years and about $100,000," said Don Alberg, a Qualicum Beach resident and one of three siblings involved with the land.

Along the way, two applications to remove the land from the ALR failed. A proposal for a 16-lot development was voted down by Saanich council last year. One idea that emerged, after another rejection by Saanich this year, was to establish a chicken operation of up to 12,000 birds. That was rejected by municipal officials over the issue of building setbacks. Next up was talk about a feed lot for 100 cattle.

Alberg said he understands that the ALR has an important function, but feels it serves no useful purpose in this case.

"The ALR is something that I respect because I farm myself," Alberg said. But, he said, the property has limitations for farming.

"It's a pretty small parcel of land, and the agrol-ogist report fully states that it's not capable of supporting any kind of soil-bound agriculture," he said. "If the place had agricultural potential, I probably would have stayed there in 1967 and not moved up-Island."

This week, Saanich councillors voted 8-1 in favour of sending another application to remove the property from the ALR to the Agricultural Land Commission, which decides on whether land is taken out of the reserve.

"The land commission will consider the application," Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said. "If they let it out of the ALR, then the property would come back to us to discuss the development proposal."

Leonard said he doesn't think the Albergs have always been treated fairly in dealings with their land. He said some neighbours also have qualms about the way things have transpired.

"They'd all bought and chosen to have houses next door in the neighbourhood, after reading the local area plan that said it was going to come out of the ALR and be developed as well."

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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