Don Alberg watches as his cattle feast on grain after being trucked down the Malahat to their new home in Saanich. The family is using the plot of agricultural land on Mount Douglas Cross Road as a cattle feed lot in the wake of being denied a residential subdivision and a chicken farm.

Don Alberg watches as his cattle feast on grain after being trucked down the Malahat to their new home in Saanich. The family is using the plot of agricultural land on Mount Douglas Cross Road as a cattle feed lot in the wake of being denied a residential subdivision and a chicken farm.

Where’s the beef? Gordon Head

Family moves 23 cows onto farm lot surrounded by residential neighbourhoods in Saanich

Don Alberg stands at the rear of the rumbling livestock trailer, backed into the entrance of a new large pen. The 67-year-old Qualicum Beach resident opens the gate, giving the cattle a first look at their new home: residential Gordon Head.

As the 23 bovine tenants graze about the land, the familiar sounds and rank odour of a cow farm quickly fill the air surrounding the agricultural property, wedged in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood.

“I, along with my brother and sister, are very apologetic to the neighbours. We were forced into this feedlot,” Alberg says. “(I know) feedlots don’t fit in here.”

The siblings own 1516 Mount Douglas Cross Rd., a 1.64-hectare parcel that’s zoned for one house. But it’s also farmland, protected in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The Gordon Head land has effectively become an extension of Alberg’s Qualicum Beach farm, as these new cows took residence in Saanich to make way for growing calves. He expects to eventually cycle cows in and out of the feedlot as they are sold off for meat.

Alberg says raising cows in Saanich isn’t ideal, but the project will extract some profit from the land after the family was twice denied requests to subdivide the land for housing.

In March 2011 the Albergs went before Saanich council with a plan to develop the property into 16 residential lots and remove it from the ALR. Council rejected the plan. In July 2012, the Albergs scaled back their plans, opting for a 12 lots. But council rejected their plans once again.

“For us to support the removal of land from the ALR it would have to be such a compelling argument (and be) for the greater good of our community … not the development of more houses,” Coun. Susan Brice said in 2011, summing up council’s reasoning for rejection.

Perhaps a compelling argument is now the Albergs, having been rejected multiple times at the staff and council levels, are using their property as a farm, even though it’s surrounded by homes.

“I don’t think we’ve been treated fairly,” Alberg says. He and his siblings – Gordon Alberg and Florence Davis – have spent nearly $150,000 on development plans, agrologist reports and now prepping the land for a cattle operation.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard says his understanding is the siblings still want to develop the property.

“I don’t know how (a cattle feedlot) gets them closer to the outcome they want,” Leonard says. “My sense is that they wish to use it as a bully tactic.”

John Alexander, the Albergs’ lawyer, doesn’t see it that way.

“This is a piece of land that’s Land Reserve land that has a potentially productive use. The Albergs spent a lot of money historically to change the use and haven’t been particularly successful (dealing with Saanich), so they’re going to put it to the uses that are permitted,” Alexander said.

The Albergs say they’re just frustrated. While they know the ball is in their court to submit another development application, they don’t want to invest more time and money, only to be potentially rejected again.

“Right now, though, we have no intentions of putting an plans forward to Saanich. We’ll let them know if that changes,” Alberg says.

Best case scenario, he says, could be if council revisits its March 2011 decision regarding the original 16-lot plan. Leonard says the property owners need to be the ones to take the next steps.

Until the stalemate is dealt with, Alberg says more pens and more cattle will be put on the property. “We need some revenue from this property,” he says.

The cows were moved to their new home Tuesday, marking the first time in nearly a decade that livestock has lived in Gordon Head.

The Alberg property was formerly owned by Vera Alberg, the siblings’ mother, since 1945, who kept five black Angus cows on the land until she turned 100 in 2004.

“The birth of new calves at ‘Vera’s place’ each spring has become a special neighbourhood event. Not many residential areas can boast such a delight,” wrote Saanich News history columnist Valerie Green in a June 1994 article. “Her small cattle business is her pride and joy.”

As homes sprung up around the property, and most area farmland was taken out of the ALR decades ago, the Alberg family land has become an anomaly.

“We had a great time when we were kids here, but it’s not like it used to be,” Alberg says in view of residential homes backing onto his cow pasture. “The reasonable decision is for this to come out of the ALR. Farming is not conducive to single-family neighbourhoods.”

 

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Organizers say some 100 vehicles rallied against plans by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property in Metchosin. (Barb Sawatsky/Submitted)
Proposed subdivision of green space in Metchosin draws 100 vehicles in protest

Plans for land owned by Boys Girls Club of Greater Victoria affects entire region, say residents

Sgt. Sandrine Perry in the Oak Bay Police Department interview room that has been softened with household features to better accommodate survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay police interview room gets a makeover

Room made less daunting for victims of trauma

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic, operated by Island Health, has opened at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
COVID-19 vaccination clinic opens at University of Victoria

Clinic is staffed and operated by Island Health

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights decorations are still up as of March 1, 2021. (Cole Schisler photo)
PHOTOS: It’s still looking a lot like Christmas in Ladysmith

Festival of Lights volunteers cannot remove the holiday roof top displays due to COVID-19

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Agassiz boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Most Read