The loss of 100 acres of farmland to create a proposed CP Rail logistics yard in Pitt Meadows has drawn the ire of local farmers, and caught the attention of the Agricultural Land Commission.
Shannon Roberts farms at Blooming Meadows. She and her sister Lauren Bennewith produce cut flowers, garlic and eggs.
Her farm will be 160 meters from CP’s planned facilities, where fuel and other items will be stored.
“I think it’s going to be disastrous. The proximity is horrifying,” said Roberts.
In December, CP announced its plan to build a multi-commodity transload and logistics facility on land adjacent to its existing intermodal rail facility in Pitt Meadows. It would be called the CP Logistics Park: Vancouver, would be 41 hectares (101 acres) in size, and is in the design stages. It is still subject to federal approvals.
CP said the site would include three main components: A fuel and ethanol transload and rail facility, an agricultural hub where products will be received by rail and transloaded to shipping containers for distribution around the world, and an auto compound to receive automobiles destined for local distributors.
Roberts questions whether they will even be able to farm at her place. Once CP raises the site, compacts it and paves, she doesn’t see how the surrounding flood plain will drain properly.
Roberts is angry CP can ignore the Agricultural Land Reserve. The ALC was established in 1973 to protect BC farmland from developers, but the railway can buy up land and turn it into an industrial site with no regard for provincial legislation.
“I bought land in the ALR knowing I couldn’t develop it, and knowing my neighbours couldn’t develop it either,” she said.
She worries about having fuels, in particular, stored so close to her farm and her family.
“It’s really bad for me, and it’s on my doorstep, but it’s also really bad for the entire community,” she said.
She said CP’s presence in Pitt Meadows makes it impossible for city hall to plan a community.
“CP could keep purchasing farms and doing this until they make it to the Fraser River – there’s nothing stopping them,” said Roberts.
Roberts appreciates the opposition of city council and her neighbours. She doesn’t plan to go away quietly. She will be lobbying senior government.
“I’m going to continue farming, and I’m going to continue fighting for it,” she said. “What option do I have, but to continue fighting for my lifestyle, and for my community.”
William Wild is a Kennedy Road resident of 30 years. He has a small farm where he grows berries and vegetables, selling them at the farm gate.
He too worries about the potential for CP Rail to continue expanding its operations on farmland in Pitt Meadows.
He is also worried his back door is about a soccer field distance from CP’s property line, and he will hear hundreds of trucks coming and going. In addition to the noise pollution, he’s expecting light pollution and the smell of exhaust. Along with those daily hassles comes the danger of hazardous materials – both fuel and grain storage.
“It’s an infringement – it’s too close,” he said.
And, he sees CP thumbing its nose at local residents and provincial laws.
“The ALR wasn’t put there for them to come along and buy it at their convenience, and put industry on it.”
Kim Grout, the CEO of the ALC, said CP Rail will be offering the board a presentation about their plans next week. The commission has taken no position about the project at this time, but could choose to respond as a stakeholder. However, approval of the project is under federal jurisdiction.
Grout is the former CAO of the City of Pitt Meadows, and still a resident. She recalled the ALC opposed CP’s development of its Pitt Meadows intermodal yard before it was established on what was farmland.
She recalled CP purchasing the site on the south side of the tracks, opposite the existing logistics yard, in 2012. City hall was not informed of their plans.
“You have a sense that something that’s not farming is on the horizon,” said Grout.
She did not want to comment on the latest expansion until the board reviews it.
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