Providence Farm Village project gets North Cowichan support

Providence Farm Village took another step toward reality as North Cowichan councillors recently backed the farm’s bid to pull one section of the site from the Agricultural Land Reserve, while adding a larger adjoining piece to the ALR.

Jack Hutton of the Vancouver Island Providence Community Association was cautiously happy about moving multi-million-dollar project ahead after about four years of talks and tactics.

“The municipality’s been very supportive of our plan to develop this project,” he said of the 35-acre residential and farm-store project off Donnay Drive.

Providence Village, at 1843 Tzouhalem Road, would provide accessible, affordable housing for about 300 folks of various skill levels.

“We’re trying to create an integrated, supportive neighbourhood,” Hutton said of the eco-project.

“We’ll try to be as green as we can within the requirements.”

Some parameters will come from B.C. Housing, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that are likely to fund the phased village — given green lights from the Agricultural Land Commission and local citizens.

Public hearings would be necessary toward North Cowichan rezoning for the farm store and a possible plant nursery on the 2.7-hectare portion Hutton and crew want pulled from the ALR.

That chuck of sloped, rocky land sits south of a large property targeted for three areas of housing.

Abodes boast what Hutton called “funky” designs complementing the community farm’s rural flavour.

The mixed-housing portion — including green spaces and gardens — doesn’t need ALR approval.

Conversely, the farm wants a 3.1-hectare parcel, east of the residential portion, added to ALR classification.

Quality and natural harmony are goals in the architecturally designed village connected by trails.

“We don’t want to be a ghetto on the hill for disadvantaged people,” Hutton said.

Another goal, he said, is building a farm store and nursery to market merchandise already being grown on the farm, plus organic goods grown locally.

“It would be an expansion, not a lessening, of our farm, which would happen because of this project.”

Councillors seemed to agree.

They acknowledged Providence Farm’s extensive local history, and that the site has supported programs for special needs folks for 30-plus years.

“The reallocation of (ALR) lands helps establish a viable and visible location for the proposed market, which potentially creates stronger ties with the community, a destination for visitors, and increases awareness and sale of local farm products,” council’s resolution states.

“Subdivision would allow the (village) society to have greater access to funds needed prior to beginning construction,” council noted.

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