Central Saanich farm for homeless forced to close

A Central Saanich farm that aims to rehabilitate homeless residents is set to close after failing to meet Agriculture Land Commission requirements.

The farm is on the district's agriculture reserve land, but its main function isn't farming

Woodwyn Farm's therapeutic community recovery centre learned this week it would have to close. (Homefullness at Woodwyn Farm/Facebook)

A Central Saanich farm that aims to rehabilitate homeless residents is set to close after failing to meet Agriculture Land Commission requirements.

The society that operates Woodwynn Farms — which has been struggling for a decade to get fully operational — announced Jan. 18 that the farm would close after the philanthropists who bought the property withdrew their support, resulting in foreclosure proceedings.

It follows a Nov. 9, 2017 decision by the province's Agricultural Land Commission to refuse an application for non-farm use by Richard LeBlanc of the Creating Homefulness Society.

The society bought the Central Saanich-area property, which falls under the agriculture land reserve, in 2009 to create a rehabilitation centre to serve the homeless and recovering addicts.

The facility is a working farm with an organic market to sell produce and has a cafe and woodworking shop. Those features factored into the ALC's decision to turn down the society's request.

"After several months… they determined that although the goals were laudable, the primary function didn't appear to be agriculture and so were not supportive of that," said Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor.

Windsor said the there are four people currently living at the farm, who will have to move elsewhere.

Land use

The district's council had been criticized in the past for not playing a more active role in supporting the farm's continued operation, but because of the land designation, the decision was up to the province.

"When they come forward looking to find pieces of land or work through the rezoning process on lands not in the agricultural land reserve we'd take that in and take it seriously," Windsor toldAll Points West host Jason D'Souza.

With the society being forced to sell the land, some are speculating that the property might be bought by cannabis producers, which Windsor opposes.

"I myself am not supportive of the use of agricultural land for the growing of marijuana, I think in short order our council might be looking at that question," he said.

With files from All Points West

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the ALC's decision on non-farm use was issued on Jan. 18. In fact, the decision was issued on Nov. 9, 2017.
    Jan 22, 2018 7:41 AM PT