The Agricultural Land Commission has rejected a plan by the Golden Eagle Farm Group to put a business park at the corner of 203rd Street and Golden Ears Way in Maple Ridge.
The proposal called for development of employment lands and a food hub – where local produce would be packaged – as well as an agricultural innovation centre and relocation and expansion of the Haney Farmer’s Market.
That would have required removing 56 acres (22 hectares) from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Part of the proposal also included adding the same amount of land to the agricultural reserve in a separate location, in Pitt Meadows, to compensate for the land being removed.
In making its April 9 decision, the ALC executive committee noted that while the land formerly housed the Pelton tree nursery and buildings, there is also potential for other agricultural uses, such as greenhouses, livestock production or nurseries.
Those are all uses that can occur within the ALR and contribute to agriculture, the decision said.
It also challenged the applicant’s contention that farm infrastructure has reduced the property’s agricultural capability, saying that rationale could be used to exclude any property from the ALR that has farm buildings.
The agricultural commission found that the use of the property as a tree nursery “does not preclude the properties from present or future agricultural use and therefore that the properties remain appropriately designated as ALR.”
Similarly, the committee rejected the proposal to add the Pitt Meadows parcel of land in exchange for excluding the 56 acres.
“The executive committee is not obligated to consider swapping land based on agricultural capability,” the ALC said.
Maple Ridge Coun. Judy Dueck had supported the removal application.
“I thought it had a lot of benefits,” she said.
But the city will have to live with the ALC’s decision, she added.
An exclusion application in 2010 by a previous owner of the property was also unsuccessful.
Dueck wasn’t sure what the landowner plans for the property next.
Golden Eagle Farm Group, part of the Golden Eagle Group, a subsidiary of the Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the Vancovuer Canucks, presented its plan to the public at an open house in February 2018.
Representatives for Golden Eagle Farm Group were not available for comment.
The commission’s decision to reject the application was unanimous.
Mayor Mike Morden said Thursday that the application looked to meet or surpass all existing ALC policy, saying the decision, “sends clear messaging to anyone holding property in the ALR.”