Annette LeBox and former NDP MLA Michael Sather oppose the land being removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (THE NEWS/files)

Two applications at Maple Ridge city hall for farmland removal

Proposals are to exclude property for business park development

Two applications been filed with the City of Maple Ridge to remove prominent properties along 128th Avenue from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Golden Eagle Farm Group wants to remove 56 acres of farmland at the site of a former tree nursery at the corner of 203rd Street and Golden Ears Way, with the intent of building a business park.

Davison Farms has also applied to have 44 acres of its land excluded on 128th Avenue at 220th Street.

Golden Eagle, part of the Aquilini Investment Group, held a public information open house in February and is now suggesting a food co-packing operation be a priority tenant in the proposed business park.

A suggestion from the public input would be using the adjacent farmland to produce the same products that would be sold in the farm market and food hub that’s also part of the proposal.

That could increase agri-tourism in the area, Aquilini Group vice-president Jim Chu said on Friday.

“We hope common sense prevails and that something that is good for farming and is good for the economy, will be approved,” Chu added.

The company’s willing to sign covenants assuring that all the features would be part of the development.

“If they want legal undertakings, we will provide them,” Chu said.

In exchange for removing 56 acres from the ALR, Golden Eagle is proposing to add 56 acres of land it that already owns in Pitt Meadows, at the north end of Neaves Road, into the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Golden Eagle Farm Group initially proposed removing 202 acres at 203rd Street and Golden Ears Way.

“We are trading in better quality land and asking to remove damaged, lower quality land,” Chu said.

The group wants to develop those 56 acres, used for a greenhouse operation before, into a business park, which could include a film studio and hotel, while using the remaining 146 acres for either field or greenhouse farming.

Both applications have been filed with the city and are expected to get to council at its June 12 meeting. Council has the authority to reject the applications outright and not forward the applications to the commission, or forward the applications with comments, and let the commission decide.

Chu said the Golden Eagle application is unique because it’s a small percentage of the land it is already farming.

“The remaining lands we have, we’re committed to agriculture.”

Kevin Davison, with Davison Farms, said the application to remove 40 acres along 128th Avenue was filed with the city about a month ago.

The dairy farm currently has 300 cattle and borders on suburban areas. Davison said the family wants to move the operation to the Interior, where there’s more land.

“We’d like to get the farm out of the city is what we’d like to do, and get into more of a farming area,” he said.

The Davisons have been farming there since 1900. But the farm is now close to a residential area and people complain to the city about the smell of manure spreading.

“We’re just giving the city another option to look at.”

Wayne Jackson is handling the application for the Davisons and said the family has been thinking about relocating for a couple of years.

“We want Maple Ridge to know there are other properties that we feel are better suited for business park to serve Maple Ridge.”

He said the Davison property is more centrally located than the Golden Eagle property.

“My point is, if you’re building a business park, build it where people need it.”

Annette LeBox, a farmland advocate, has opposed previous exclusion proposals and opposes both current applications.

“But I still have faith that the new chair of the ALC will turn it down.”

She added that farmland has to be preserved, especially in light of the effects of climate change, which has produced ongoing drought in California.

A previous application by previous owners of the Golden Eagle property was refused by the Agricultural Land Commission in 2010.

In 2013, the Golden Eagle property was included on a list for possible removal from the ALR in a city report.

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