Pitt Meadows is confident its ALR removal application

Pitt Meadows is confident its ALR removal application

Ag commission refocuses on farmland

Agency will be more proactive, reduce time spent on exclusion applications.

People trying to take farmland out of the reserve best be prepared for the long haul, if their application succeeds at all, if recent words carry any weight.

A message last month from Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock says the commission is weary of merely reacting to exclusion requests, which it says takes 80 per cent of its time.

During one year, the commission can get up to 700 new applications.

Instead, it wants to take control of its workload and spend only 30 per cent of its time reviewing those requests. It also wants to do “earlier and more extensive” local planning, while encouraging cities “to adopt compact and efficient development patterns that minimize pressure on ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) boundaries.”

Many applications “are nothing more than an attempt to gain a financial benefit from non-agricultural uses or from removing land from the ALR,” Bullock writes.

Pitt Meadows Coun. Doug Bing supports such a change – but still feels Pitt Meadows’s own pending farmland exclusion application has a good chance to be approved by the Agricultural Land Commission.

In July, council told staff to prepare an application that would remove 80 acres of farmland from the reserve on the north side of Lougheed Highway to allow for commercial use and construction of the North Lougheed Connector.

“I think it has a solid chance.”

Pitt Meadows met with the land commission this past spring and seemed to support the proposal, he pointed out.

“They seemed to be quite understanding of our particular situation. They saw a lot of merit in our argument.”

A major part of Pitt Meadows’s motivation for the application is to have a road that will handle growing traffic volume from Maple Ridge, whose population could double in 30 years.

“We’ve got all these people wanting to get through Pitt Meadows in order to get farther west.”

Most on Pitt Meadows council also feel that if the North Lougheed Connector is built from Golden Ears Way to Lougheed Highway, the land between it and the Lougheed Highway will become too noisy and expensive for farming.

Bing pointed out the land withdrawn would be less than two per cent of Pitt Meadows ALR land.

“This is the last developable piece of land in our urban area and there’s no plan to expand the urban boundary.”

Coun. Janice Elkerton opposes the plan and said the justification that a new road will help farm traffic isn’t accurate.

“I don’t think that road will do anything to alleviate traffic on Old Dewdney Trunk Road.”

Instead, she thinks stop signs should be used to discourage traffic.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t get the support at the ALC.”

The proposal still has to go to public hearing.

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin hasn’t read the ALC statement, but agreed with the approach of the new mandate.

Speculation has to be taken out of the farmland exclusion process, he said.

He said it’s crazy for the commission to receive 700 exclusion applications a year.

“I think it’s going to give us all pause as to what we’re doing.”

Maple Ridge council’s policy is not to support any exclusion applications that would see farmland turned into housing subdivisions.

But he also wants Maple Ridge to be treated fairly, pointing out Langley had a big chunk land removed from the ALR in 2010 near Trinity Western University.

But an application to remove the Pelton lands on 203rd Street in Maple Ridge was rejected by the commission.

The ALC has also said it doesn’t support removing land from the west side of 105th Avenue in the Albion flats.

“I just want to be treated the same.”