Environmentalists who oppose a plan to develop the North Lougheed corridor in Pitt Meadows are questioning why city council is being asked now, in summer, to make a decision that will guide development along the stretch for years to come.
Council was set to discuss a study Tuesday that pitches three development options for the 50.9 hectares (125 acres) of land, located between Harris Road and Meadow Gardens Way.
Of the land being considered for development, only 17.5 hectares (43 acres) is zoned highway commercial. The remaining 32.5 hectares (80 acres) would have to be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The Pitt Polder Preservation Society suspects there’s a reason why council is being asked to make a decision that will affect a large tract of farmland in July, when many residents are away on vacation.
“I don’t understand what’s the big rush,” said society vice-president Peter Jongbloed, who postponed a vacation to attend Tuesday’s meeting after spotting the study on council’s agenda.
“We are firmly against council excluding any more land. Every bit matters. It is important to preserve farmland. That’s the whole reason for the agricultural land reserve.”
The City of Pitt Meadows, however, insists there was no ulterior reason for why the study reappeared on council’s agenda during summer.
City director of operations Kim Grout said the timing of staff’s latest report was driven by a letter the city received from the Agricultural Land Commission, written June 14.
“This week’s meeting was the first meeting available for that correspondence to be presented to council,” Grout explained.
Of the three options sketched out by consultants in the study, the ones that set aside land for agricultural uses won’t generate enough money to cover the costs of building the North Lougheed Connector, a road that’s needed to access the commercial strip.
Even the third option, which proposes a mix of uses, including big stores, a hotel or conference centre, showrooms or a business park on the entire 50.9 hectares site, will struggle to meet the costs. Council has yet to decide which option to support and whether to pursue an application to remove property from the agricultural land reserve.
Residents of Pitt Meadows who commented on the study at an open house last year overwhelmingly favoured the land-use option that preserves the most farm land.
The Agricultural Land Commission was asked for comment on the land-use study, but returned with a response that gives little direction to council.
Executive director Brian Underhill said the commission will comment in detail when Pitt Meadows submits an exclusion application.
“The commission did not take preference to one or more of the options,” explained Underhill.
“The commission is not in any way prejudging what the outcome of an exclusion application may or may not be.”