ALC decision lacks integrity

This week’s announcement from the ALC that it has approved the North Lougheed Connector is a blow to agricultural sustainability

Editor, The News:

Re: Pitt farmland OK’d for new road, mall, (The News, Aug. 17.)

This week’s announcement from the Agricultural Land Commission that it has approved the North Lougheed Connector in Pitt Meadows is a blow to agricultural sustainability in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and beyond.

The rationale behind the decision lacks integrity.  It makes no sense.

In 2010, the ALC approved the North Lougheed Connector with the condition the land adjacent to the connector be covenanted for agricultural use.

These covenants have never been put in place by the City of Pitt Meadows, yet the ALC has proceeded to remove the land from the ALR.

Clearly, ALC “conditions” were not worth the paper they were written on.

The supposed justification for the NLC is that it will take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road, thereby making it easier for farmers in that area to move their farm equipment.

And yet the city has never expressed any interest in doing what many have suggested, that is, to put traffic-calming devices on Old Dewdney Trunk Road, thereby shifting traffic to Abernethy Way.

Now, however, the city says it wants to put in traffic-calming devices.

But the land commission says it can’t do that because Old Dewdney Trunk Road is part of the major road network and traffic-calming devices are not permitted on major road networks.

However, the poorly written document released by the ALC suggests that, if there is an alternate route, namely the North Lougheed Connector, then it can take the major road network designation off Old Dewdney and put in traffic-calming devices. Those responsible for the decision to allow the North Lougheed Connector, must have sat up long hours concocting this dodge.

Mayor Walters now says the city is going to protect the farmland on the north side of the new connector.

We’ve seen this movie before.  Several years ago, farmland advocates agreed not to oppose the removal of a narrow strip of farmland from the ALR along the north side of Lougheed Highway between Park Road and Harris Road as they were assured there would be no further sprawl north of there.

The ALC didn’t even do its homework.  Its letter says that “20 people were reported to have attended the meeting,” … at Pitt Meadows council on the removal application.

In fact, the council chamber was filled to overflowing.  But why bother with the facts when you have a story to tell?

I’ve never seen a business-case that states how much time (if any) this road will save commuters.

It seemed when Richard Bullock became chair of the land commission, it was taking preservation of farmland seriously; for example the Pelton land removal application was denied.  Now, there seems to be a new direction.

First we have Minister Bill Bennett calling for changes to the ALR boundaries because “they inhibit economic development” and “impair the ability to put in subdivisions.”

And now this decision.

But what the heck, we don’t need local agriculture anyway do we?

We can always depend on getting our food from California and China.  Can’t we?

Michael Sather, Maple Ridge

(Sather is former NDP MLA.)