Pitt Meadows farmer irked by mayor’s farm home plate talk

Don MacDonald wants other councillors to tell Don MacLean to stop pushing for regulation

Don MacDonald

Don MacDonald

A Pitt Meadows farmer wants the city’s mayor to stop pushing for regulations that restrict the size and location of homes on farmland because its municipal council turfed similar rules two years ago.

Don MacDonald, who owns a farm on McQuarrie Road, is tired of seeing Mayor Don MacLean voice support for the regulations, the latest platform being an article in the Western Producer.

“I know that council is not in favour of it because they are the ones that canned it before,” said MacDonald.

“I’m hoping they come out and say something.”

Metro Vancouver is asking the provincial agriculture ministry to introduce standardized rules to control the placement and size of the residential footprint of homes in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

While two cities – Delta and Richmond – have local bylaws that impose restrictions, opposition from property owners have prompted other councils such as Pitt Meadows and Surrey to shelve similar efforts.

If the city-by-city patchwork of rules continues, Metro officials say, people who want to build manor homes on farmland will flock to cities without bylaws, or look further east in the Fraser Valley Regional District.

MacDonald wonders why Pitt Meadows’ mayor is sitting on an agricultural committee when he’s stated he won’t be seeking re-election this year.

“It bothers me big time because it’s an invasion of my liberty,” he said. “Somebody wants to tell me where I build my house on my property, that really ticks me off.”

Although the mayor acknowledges his city rejected farm home plate regulations in 2009, he stresses he’s speaking as regional director representing Metro Vancouver, an organization comprised of 24 municipal authorities.

“I understand and appreciate that council doesn’t want to pass a bylaw and that’s fine,” said MacLean. “But it’s a regional issue. Every municipality that has substantial farm holdings has this problem. My council is fully aware that my comments were made as a member of [Metro Vancouver’s] agricultural committee.”

City councillors, though, have voiced their frustration with the mayor’s support for the regulations.

Coun. Deb Walters, who’ll be seeking the mayor’s seat come November, said she directed staff in February to send a report to Metro Vancouver that outlines council’s concerns about the regulations. She hopes the province asks cities for their input before moving ahead with any changes.

“We have to decided what the definition of farming is. Once we have a concrete definition, we can decide if we need farm home plates,” said Walters, adding that Pitt Meadows already has bylaws that restrict the height, size and setbacks of homes on agricultural land.

“I think we do a good job managing it in Pitt Meadows.”

But Couns. John Becker and Doug Bing agree that regulations that govern farmland should be set by the province.

“There are challenges to moving it forward at a local government level,” said Becker, noting he “still has the scars” for being the only councillor who supported the farm home plate bylaw in 2009.

“It has to come probably through the agricultural land commission.”

Bing, who’ll also be vying for the mayor’s seat, thinks city-by-city rules make no sense.

“I believe there should be some restrictions,” said Bing. “But they need to come from the province.”

– with files fromJeff Nagel