The lots in question – 6912 and 7166 West Coast Rd, were deemed “unfarmable” and “damaged” due to runoff from nearby residential developments, leaving the owner, Alberta resident Anthony Laughren, with little choice, as the land isn’t arrable, nor can it be removed from the ALR and repurposed without the Agricultural Land Commission’s approval, Stephanie Davison, Laughren’s representative, told council Monday night.
Davison said putting in a feedlot in the 6912 property, which is right across from the Prestige hotel, is the only way to make the land profitable, adding the owner is being penalized by the ALC for having ALR land but not farming his land.
“If you have lands that you can’t farm becuase you can’t grow on it, you have to find a means to farm it, or there’s a potential to be heavily taxed,” she said, adding the land isn’t even good for livestock, but it could accomodate pigs. “If I have to help Mr. Laughren farm it, I may push for pigs.”
Now, Davidson is turning to the District of Sooke to provide a letter of support that would go along with Laughren’s application to the ALC to pull both properties out of the ALR. As such, Davison argued this could be beneficial to Sooke, as Laughren is also offering 28 acres in Kemp Lake as an act of good faith to the district.
Not everyone saw the plan as friendly, as some members of council felt pushed into a corner to make a decision either-or.
“Philosophically, I don’t support any exclusions. I felt that way for 35 years and all my political career,” said Coun. Rick Kasper, “Me, and I think members of the community felt insulted by this threat [of a feedlot] as that will just cause rank in the community, and some people see that as a ploy to have the land removed for fear in neighbourhoods.”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait also expressed concern over the district supporting the application, adding council needs more information on the matter before proceeding with a decision.
“We need clarity on what they want to do. Let’s have an open conversation about this,” Tait said. “I want this to follow some kind of process, otherwise I can’t make a good governing decision that way.”
Tait also requested the report from Davidson’s agricultural report on both properties, as well as a history of previous exclusion applications to shed more light on the subject.
This isn’t the first time both properties were the centre of controversy. Sooke resident Ed Shaw, the land’s previous owner, struggled for years to pull the land out of the ALR, even suggesting a fish farm as a last measure, but all attempts failed. In 2016, Shaw lost the land after it was foreclosed.