A Pitt Meadows farmer won the support of council Tuesday to fill a piece of land he owns to improve it for farming.
Council forwarded the soil deposit application to fill 2.72 hectares of a 3.96 hectare parcel to the Agricultural Land Commission, with a set of conditions that include inspecting the soil at its source and submitting monthly reports on the quality of the fill to city staff.
Although he has owned the property since 1988, Brent Mehl has had little success growing cranberries on his property at the north end of Harris Road. The yield he gets from the property is never enough to cover costs.
Mehl told council he purchased the property, cleared trees off it and had hoped to make a living from the farm.
The property, however, lies at the end of Pitt Meadows’ ditch system at a 1.2-metre elevation. As a result, Mehl has never been able to flood his fields sufficiently when it comes time to harvest the cranberries.
The property also drains poorly.
By excavating 1.5 metres of peat, retaining half of it for topsoil and trucking in loose fill of 46,000 cubic metres, Mehl will be able to enhance soil capabilities to support a wider range of crops or plant a tree nursery.
Some councillors were reluctant to approve the fill application at first, but Mehl reassured them he was not going to fill the site and stop farming.
“I just can’t do cranberries anymore,” he told council.
“This isn’t a separate piece of property that I am going to fill and flip. This is my home.”
The city’s agricultural advisory committee could not agree on whether to support the fill application. Some on the committee felt the land was perfectly suited to growing cranberries.
Coun. Janis Elkerton said the advisory committee was mostly concerned about the quality of fill that would be dumped on site when the application was discussed at a meeting in June.
“I’d like to see conditions to monitor soil deposit,” she said before voting to support the application.
“We have to help our farmers.”
If the application is approved by the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, 46,000 cubic metres of fill will be trucked to the site over three years.
The fill contractor will pay the city $4 for every load trucked to the property.