Canadian Pacific Railway has bought a tract of farmland in Pitt Meadows to hold for possible expansion.
The $4 million purchase of 23 hectares (58 acres) means the company will own land on both sides of the train tracks.
Canadian Pacific currently owns 60 hectares (150 acres) along Lougheed Highway near Kennedy Road, 40 of which are undeveloped. The other 20 is an intermodal yard.
The company, which employs 50 employees and roughly 125-150 contractors at its Pitt Meadows operation, has no plans to pave its new purchase immediately, but is holding the property for future growth.
“This is just normal course of business in acquiring this land to be in a position for potential future use,” said Kevin Hrysak, CPR Canada’s media relations manager.
For now, the land, home to a dairy operation and horse sanctuary in the past, will continue to be used for agriculture.
As a federally chartered company, CPR’s railway operations, such as track expansions or intermodal yards, are not subject to local government or provincial rules.
The Agricultural Land Commission, which regulates farmland in B.C., is aware of CPR’s purchase and has been told the company may need the land to expand railway tracks.
Land commission planner Tony Pellett said Canadian Pacific did not need its approval when it built the container terminal on farmland along Lougheed Hwy., but required an exclusion application to build its warehouses off Allen Way.
“It is strictly railway operations that are exempt,” said Pellett.
“They may come back to us at some point for an application to do something else, if, for example, they wanted to put warehouses on that side.”
Canadian Pacific’s latest purchase doesn’t sit well with environmentalists who’ve been fighting to protect farmland in the city.
Peter Jongbloed, with the Pitt Polder Preservation Society, is concerned the purchase will put pressure on surrounding farms, causing a domino effect that could see more land removed from the agricultural reserve.
“There is nothing wrong with this farmland and it should stay that,” he said.
“In the past, CP purchased farmland in between Lougheed Hwy. and Westfair Foods, and because the railway owned it, they had special rules.”
But the city is confident Canadian Pacific will work within its regulations to mitigate drainage problems that could result from developing in a flood plain, especially since the Katzie Slough runs along the recently acquired property.
“CP is a holding company. Their vision for the future is 100 years, so just because they own it doesn’t mean their plans are to expand into that in the short- to medium-term,” said city director of operations of Kim Grout. “We certainly have had no discussions with them.”
CPR’s 22,500-kilometre (14,000-mile) network extends from the Port of Vancouver in Canada’s west to The Port of Montreal in Canada’s east, and to the U.S. industrial centers of Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, New York City and Buffalo.