Metro Vancouver regional growth strategy threatens farmland, Richmond councillor warns after vote

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      A cofounder of B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve was a voice in the wilderness today (January 14) as the board of Metro Vancouver voted in favour of a proposed regional growth strategy.

      Richmond councillor Harold Steves cast the sole dissenting vote, warning his fellow directors that the plan is a threat to agricultural land.

      “In every aspect except for agriculture and the environment, it’s an excellent plan,” the former NDP MLA told reporters after the vote. “And that’s why it’s got widespread support. However, the agriculture aspect of it is something that’s been festering for over 40 years. Every time we bring a new regional plan, there’s a new study area or a number of new study areas, and over a period of time the land commission gives up. And you end with these lands being removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

      “So it’s time that that stop,” Steves added. “And that was my point today. We’ve got to put to an end to this constant erosion of the Agricultural Land Reserve and farmland in the Lower Mainland.”

      Steves was referring to the “special study areas” discussed in the document “Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future”.

      The paper states that special study areas “identify locations where, prior to the adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy, a municipality has expressed an intention to alter the existing land use, and is anticipating a future regional land use designation amendment”.

      “If the Special Study Area involves lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve, then the municipality is required to consult with the Agricultural Land Commission during the preparation of the planning studies prior to initiating an application to exclude the lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve,” the paper also states.

      Steves told reporters that what this will do is increase speculation on agricultural lands that are being eyed for other uses.

      He doesn’t doubt that the regional growth strategy will be adopted eventually.

      However, Steves noted, “But I think that every time a city comes up now with an amendment in those study areas or in the areas that are urban in the Agricultural Land Reserve, every time that happens, there’s going to be major battles within those neighbourhoods and those communities to prevent it from happening.”

      Referring to uncertainties resulting from the proposed regional plan, Steves said, “We could have ended it today.”

      Before the vote, Steves also called the attention of his fellow directors to some objections raised by the Agricultural Land Commission.

      These were contained in a November 23, 2010, letter from the ALC to Metro Vancouver, which noted “inconsistencies” with the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

      These include the designation of two parcels of Agricultural Land Reserve lands in Richmond totaling 112 hectares for general urban development.

      It also cited another 160 hectares of ALR lands near the Aldergrove municipal town centre which have been designated for urban purposes. An additional 17 hectares in Aldergrove have been identified for urban use, the commission noted in its letter.

      In a press release after the board meeting, Metro Vancouver called on local governments to approve the new growth strategy.

      “This Strategy will help curb urban sprawl, protect our precious farmland and conserve the stunning legacy of nature we cherish,” board chair and Delta mayor Lois Jackson stated in the release.



      Ken Lawson

      Jan 14, 2011 at 2:27pm

      Harold will you shut up, you have been harping on this since I campaigned for Brodie for Mayor the first time. The bottomline if the land is not currently growing anything it will be developed. So get your seeds and start sowing.

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      Steve Y

      Jan 14, 2011 at 2:43pm

      We can have farmland in the middle of one of N. America's most densely populated regions OR we can continue to have immigration into the area. Not both.

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      Jan 14, 2011 at 4:28pm

      Bye bye West Vancouver forests. The Regional Growth Strategy redraws the boundaries, and will allow sprawl all the way up the mountain. Shame.

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      Jan 15, 2011 at 3:52pm

      KL wrote: "if the land is not currently growing anything it will be developed"
      SY says it's farmland or immigration.

      Both are wrong!

      In the past 50 years, no developed MV land has ever reverted back to farming uses. And it's better safe than sorry. Save the farmland! It's art of what makes the region livable.

      Developers should focus on up-zoning current residential lands instead of encroaching on our past and potential future food growing areas.

      Upzone ... save the farmland and allow immigration.

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      Jan 16, 2011 at 4:39am

      I think most of the people pretending to care about "farmland" (most of which hasn't been farmed since before they were born) are really just in favor of keeping an undeveloped, semi-wilderness area near their house so they can go for nice walks nearby. Nice walks are, well, nice, but unless you want to buy the land and farm it, you're outside discussion.

      Then there's the folks who think that without the ALR we won't have any farmland. Wow. Where does this mindset come from that we're all going to starve to death while enjoying our fancy townhouses? We'll always have lots of farmland, it doesn't have to be in urban centers where farmers face constant harassment for simply trying to actually farm. The ALR is a bureaucratic farce and needs to be totally revamped.

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      Evil Eye

      Jan 16, 2011 at 8:13am

      As always METRO Vancouver caters to the land developers. Welcome to LA North, where the goal of regional planners is to blacktop farmland.

      With no coherent transportation plan, highways and farmland degradation are the plan for the future. METRO Vancouver an unelected joke, will destroy what ever is good, that is left in the lower mainland. They all should be fired.

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      Jan 16, 2011 at 12:41pm

      "We'll always have lots of farmland ..."??

      This may look good ... but

      The vast majority of Class A Agricultural land in BC, with a six month growing season and access to major transportation centres, is located in the Lower Mainland. Lose that, and we lose what little self-sufficient we have.

      In fact, the sheer size of our province should easily allow us to accommodate all the housing, industry and commercial lands we need without encroaching on farmland.

      And I don't agree that the regional planners want to blacktop our farmland. That role is more than adequately filled by the developers and their political allies.

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      Fan O' Truth

      Jan 16, 2011 at 5:22pm

      How was Harold Steves a co-author of the ALR?

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      glen p robbins

      Jan 16, 2011 at 6:13pm

      The existing laws need to be changed. Currently Interest on property taxes (which includes all fees or penalties under federal law) is designated for rural development only---- by existing BC law.

      BC municipalities must either make amendments to the applicable provincial statutes OR stop collecting Interest (including all fees or penalties)-------OR reveal how these dollars are going directly to the development of rural property---.

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      Charlie Smith

      Jan 16, 2011 at 7:03pm

      Harold Steves persuaded the NDP to adopt the ALR as official policy. After the NDP was elected in 1972, it implemented that policy.

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