Pelton property back up for exclusion

Proposal is to add other land into Agricultural Land Reserve to compensate

The new owners of the former Pelton tree nursery in Maple Ridge’s northwest corner want to take the land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“We see this land as having the potential to become a successful job creation area and we are committed to creating a development plan which will substantially benefit the residents and business of Maple Ridge,” says Jim Chu with Aquilini Investment Group.

The company that owns the Vancouver Canucks bought the property, 202 acres located at 203rd Street, north of Golden Ears Way, formerly the Pelton Reforestation Nursery, last September.

It’s the second attempt to remove the land from the agricultural reserve. In 2010, the Agricultural Land Commission rejected an application saying the property had “significant agricultural capability,” despite its previous use as a tree nursery and greenhouse operation.

The land commission in an Oct. 13 ruling, also said that if the lands came out of the farm reserve, it would affect the viability of nearby farms.

But Chu says in a June 1 letter to Maple Ridge council that his company will consult with Maple Ridge and also will contribute replacement property that can be added to the land reserve locally and will also ensure that land will be farmed.

Aquilini Investment Group also operates some of the largest blueberry and cranberry farms in the world, Chu points out. Many of those acres of berry fields are located in Pitt Meadows.

He says in his letter, that the Pelton land, which contained greenhouses, isn’t being cultivated and “they (have) not been productive for many years, nor will they be able to be productive barring extensive remediation due to damage from the historical use.”

Coun. Bob Masse said he’s willing to consider the application.

City councils can decide whether to reject a farmland exclusion application or forward it to the Agricultural Land Commission and let it decide.

“I know it will be very controversial to have that discussion. Nevertheless, we should have the discussion,” Masse said.

If developing a business park or agrico-industrial area produced hundreds of jobs and spare people from having to commute, “these are the kinds of things I’d be looking at.”