Pitt Meadows council is supporting a plan to develop nine hectares (22 acres) of protected farmland in the city as a new residential neighbourhood.
Four property owners along Baynes Road have the city’s support as they ask the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for an exemption to allow their properties to be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
Chris Begg, one of the landowners who addressed council on behalf of the group, said the land has drainage problems that constrains traditional agriculture. It could be developed as a greenhouse operation at a cost of $30-$60 million, and the site would have to be raised with large amounts of fill.
The residential development proposed would include 475 housing units, roughly broken down as 34 single family compact lots, 30 duplex units, 136 townhouse units, 124 apartment units, 23 tiny homes, 128 seniors units, and 1,500 cubic metres of commercial space. There would also be a community garden and a pathway/trail network.
“We captured what we felt were the key elements of a complete neighbourhood, including some convenience commercial, a variety of housing forms, seniors care facility, rental accommodation, and most importantly a development geared to affordable homes for seniors and families,” Begg said.
He noted there had been public input including 103 letters of support and 15 opposed.
The addresses are 11898, 11848, 11834 and 11782 Baynes Road. All have single family dwellings, two have hay fields, and one has a blueberry field. In total, about half of the land is used for blueberry production, at the 11782 property.
Mayor Bill Dingwall opposed the plan, saying the city has planned for residential growth, and this site was considered but not included because it is in the ALR. A staff report said the city is estimated to grow by an additional, 4,354 people by 2041, and needs an additional 2,325 housing units in the next 20 years.
Dingwall also noted it is difficult to get an ALR exclusion for residential use, as industrial and commercial land use needs are considered more pressing in the region, and generally are prioritized for exclusions.
He and Coun. Nicole MacDonald were the opposing votes.
Coun. Mike Hayes had concerns about the proposed development, saying it may be too dense. However, he said future farm operations may impact residential neighbours of the site. Begg’s report said noise, light, sound and smell from agriculture could have a “huge quality of life impact” on existing neighbourhoods.
“I also have serious concerns about a greenhouse operation going in there, and who knows, maybe they decide they want to grow marijuana for a greater crop and return on their money,” said Hayes.
City staff noted “right to farm” legislation allows agricultural uses of the property regardless of disruption to residential neighbours from sounds or smells.
“I think that this is a really good plan. It’s an answer to our housing needs,” said Coun. Tracy Miyashita, adding that it provides a variety of housing options, coincides with development at the Pitt Meadows Airport, and is within walking distance to amenities.
Coun. Gwen O’Connell said there is a need for smaller homes and a seniors care home in Pitt Meadows. She said seniors who need more care in housing are forced to leave the city. She didn’t see the nearby airport as an issue for new homeowners.
“The people moving to them, and buying them know they are across from an airport, so you can’t complain.”
The plan will now proceed to the ALC.
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