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North Lougheed Connector covenants ‘useless’
The City of Pitt Meadows wants the Agricultural Land Commission to review restrictions placed on a road through farmland that was approved last year.
In particular, the city wants clarification on a decision that requires it to get covenants assigned to the land titles for each of the properties adjacent to the proposed road. Those covenants would require each property to remain farmland.
The road would sever six parcels of land, four of which are actively farmed and occupy 7.4 hectares (18.2 acres).
The city is currently figuring out what development it wants to see on the commercial strip along Lougheed Highway, between Harris Road and Meadows Gardens Way.
The three options for development are currently awaiting comment from the Agricultural Land Commission, an independent Crown agency that protects farmland.
“As part of our request for the ALC’s review of those plans, we asked that they reconsideration the conditions placed on the connector without being specific,” said Grout.
“We do believe ... that the covenants are redundant and likely unenforceable, but again have asked the ALC to review and re-consider.”
MLA Michael Sather (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge), a vocal critic of the city’s plans to build a road through farmland, shares the city’s opinion. He believes the covenants attached to the road approval are essentially useless.
On Thursday, he raised the question about covenants in the legislature as the government introduced an amendment to strengthen the Agricultural Land Commission.
“I think they are bluffing,” said Sather.
“I was under the impression that the covenants had some power.”
The proposed 3.6-kilometre North Lougheed Connector would stretch from Harris Rd. to Golden Ears Way.
The city maintains the connector is being proposed as a way to take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road. But the road is essential for developing the commercial strip planned for the north side of Lougheed Hwy.
Sather questioned the validity of covenants requested by the ALC and was told by minister Steve Thomson “from a legal perspective, the land commission could request a covenant, but the landowner is under no obligation to do that unless he agrees.”
“The covenant has no teeth in it,” Sather added.
The ALC, however, disagrees and maintains the covenants, which add another layer of protection to farmland, can be enforced.
“The covenants, once in place, are enforceable,” said ALC executive director Brian Underhill.
“They would be with the commission and owner of the land. It reinforces that the lands adjoining the proposed road are in the [Agricultural Land Reserve].”
Underhill explained the covenants were an opportunity for the commission to send a message when it approved the road alignment that the adjacent farmland was not being contemplated for other uses.
Land owners wanting to develop would have to request removal from the ALR.
But Underhill also agreed that the covenants may be redundant.
“That may be something we could perhaps look at in the future,” he said.
“There may or may not be an argument to keep the covenants once the road is in place. There is lots of future discussion that may happen on that.”