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City of Pitt Meadows criticizes ALC’s decision to block feed supply store relocation

Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre was hoping to replace the old Otter Co-op store
Mike Crouse, co-owner of Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre, said that they had already done a lot of work to prepare the 11,000-square-foot building to be used as the new feed supply store before the ALC rejected their application. (Brandon Tucker/The News)

The City of Pitt Meadows has come out against the Agricultural Land Commission’s decision to stop the Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre from selling Otter Co-op farm seed and feed, with Councillor Mike Manion saying “things like this clearly demonstrates that there isn’t any support for agriculture.”

Mayor Nicole MacDonald said that this decision will lead to major disruptions within the Pitt Meadows farming community, which makes up approximately 85 per cent of the city’s total land.

“With current and ongoing supply-chain issues and now the reduced availability of local feed supplies, this gap in service will negatively affect the viability of agriculture in Pitt Meadows,” said MacDonald.

“Permitting the sale of farm feed and supplies in an agricultural area makes sense. The solution proposed to the ALC would have been a way to keep the Otter Co-op in our community.”

All of this stems from the sudden closure of the Otter Co-op Pitt Meadows location in 2022, due to the construction of the new Harris Road underpass.

READ MORE: Otter Co-op in Pitt Meadows will be closed for railway underpass

In a March meeting, Pitt Meadows council unanimously supported the Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre’s application to the ALC asking for the relocation of the Otter Co-op’s farm feed and supplies to their Harris Road locaton.

On Nov. 15, the ALC announced it had rejected the application, citing numerous reasons.

“The panel finds that introducing a commercial use in the heart/centre of the ALR and the increased traffic not associated with farming (even if minimal as suggested by the applicant) would have an impact on the continuity of the agricultural land base of the area and could cause conflicts derived from the interaction of two different land-use activities,” said the report.

“The panel finds that the purpose of the ALR is not to accommodate a commercial activity better suited to urban areas.”

Mike Crouse, co-owner of the Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre, strongly disagrees with the ALC’s arguments about increased traffic to the area. The commission suggested using an urban space for the supply and sale of Otter Co-op’s products.

“They [the ALC] thought there would be hundreds of more cars driving down our street, but the Otter Co-op employees told us that we’d actually be lucky to get 30 cars per day,” said Crouse.

“If they’re so worried about traffic in this area, then they should do something about the endless asphalt and dump trucks that drive up and down our street all day long.”

Crouse also explained that as part of the application process, he and his wife went through Pitt Meadows, looking for any commercial buildings that could possibly be rented, but could not find anything for a viable business.

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Crouse and Pitt Meadows city council weren’t the only ones disappointed with the ALC’s decision. Jack Nicholson, CEO of Otter Co-op, also voiced his displeasure over what he referred to as an illogical ruling.

“Otter Co-op is also deeply disappointed that the ALC declined an agricultural-based local business that supports the agricultural community to be allowed to service and sell products and services from their property that directly improves access to agricultural needs in the area,” said Nicholson.

“We are unsure of the reasoning behind the decision, as I do not see a negative impact to the applicant’s current agricultural land from preserving this service to the community.”

As part of the application, the Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre closed its teaching school so that the 11,000-square-foot building on the property could be vacated and repurposed to store the various feed supplies.

“We shut down part of our business, because we didn’t think any of this would be an issue,” said Crouse.

The City of Pitt Meadows agreed with this move, stating “the feed supply store was intended to operate out of an existing riding arena and attached horse stalls would be converted into retail and storage areas. Re-purposing existing structures and parking areas would not reduce areas available for agricultural activities.”

Denying the application also resulted in four former Otter Co-op employees losing a chance to continue their work at a feed store, as Crouse explained that he and his wife were planning on hiring four workers from the previous location to help run the new feed supplies store on the property.

Without a viable alternative to the Pitt Meadows co-op, many local farmers are now being forced to drive to the nearest Otter Co-op feed store, which is located at 3548 248th St., in Langley.

“Co-op doesn’t offer delivery, and we don’t always have time to go all the way to Aldergrove,” said Crouse, who needs significant amounts of feed for his many horses.

Above all else, Crouse is simply feeling disheartened by this decision, which comes after many months of working on the application process.

“We put a year of effort into this and got nothing from it,” said Crouse. “We wanted to do this to support our community and we even had a lot of people thank us for trying to do this, but now we have to tell them that the ALC shot it down.”

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Brandon Tucker

About the Author: Brandon Tucker

I have been a journalist since 2013, with much of my career spent covering sports and entertainment stories in Alberta.
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