Living in a state of anarchy

Editor, The News:

Re: Farmer is following the rules: ALC (The News, July 27).

In a civilized society, we develop rules to protect lives, property, the environment and, yes, farmland.

There are very good reasons for having these rules. Without them we would live in a state anarchy.

When landowners want to place fill on their properties, they are required to go through an application process, which is intended to ensure that the proposed fill will not adversely effect neighbours, our environment, groundwater.

The district studies these applications and makes a recommendation to council based on its findings.

In the case of Hang Cho’s property, the fill application submitted for recommendation from district staff was quite clear: No way.

The document cited a number of points where that landowner had been non-compliant in the past:

• fill being brought into the site without a permit;

• construction of a berm along the edge of the North Alouette River without a permit;

• encroachment of the berm into a federally designated fish habit area and municipal designated watercourse setback.

The berm was not checked or approved by a qualified professional to ensure that it was structurally sound enough to withstand a flood event.

The document then goes on to say that if the ALC approves the application, a fill permit could be issued, but only with the following conditions.

A “qualified professional” is to provide the following assurances:

•  there will be no negative impact on neighbouring sites with regard to displacement or routing of  water during flooding;

• mitigation controls must comply with federal and oceans regulations and municipal regulations; any variance of this will require authorization from the senior agencies.

The ALC, in its wisdom, chose to ignore this report from the district. Instead of accepting the fill application and sending it back to the district, the ALC came back with a loop-hole in the law that allows the fill without any of the sensible controls that would normally have been in place.

This sets a very bad precedent. Maple Ridge is developing very quickly and the amount of fill being produced as a result of the development is enormous.

District staff have a tough job to do. They have to make sure that all this fill is disposed of in a way that is not harmful.

The ALC is constantly complaining that it is understaffed and underfunded. If the ALC decides to continue bypassing the district, then where will the resources come from to properly supervise these fill operations?

If you live in the neighborhood close to one of these properties (just about anywhere), you will have absolutely no say in what is done. Expect thousands of dump trucks to roll by your door with absolutely no controls in place.

The ALC has gone out of its way to bypass the normal application process.

The district has allowed this to happen without much of a fight. The district has effectively ceded all of its authority to an agency that does not have any regard for the consequences of its decisions.

The statement made by Brian Underhill is shocking.

“We understand that he has a consultant doing those studies,” he said. “Our understanding is that there has been some good information that’s been provided to the contractor … to clarify what he is doing is consistent with the regulations.”

Mr. Underhill claims that they are within the rules of the ALC  and yet they have consistently failed to address the clause in the act which states “work must not cause danger on or to adjacent land, structures or rights of way, or foul, obstruct or impede the flow of any waterway.”

Now Mr. Underhill is saying a consultant is working on a study. One would think that the study should have been received and reviewed by all stakeholders before the decision was made.

Mr. Underhill claims that the ALC has good information provided by a contractor. What about the good information provided by the district, which clearly states ‘bad idea.’

What about the good information provided by the three-year-long NHC study, which also stated ‘bad idea.’

Instead of all this good information, Mr. Underhill would rather take the word of a contractor who has a pecuniary interest in the project.

In my view, this is an abuse of power by a government agency. We should all be very concerned about the ALC’s highhanded attitude, its ignorance of the location and willingness to jeopardize people and the environment despite all the good information provided.

We should all be very concerned that the district has so easily ceded power to the ALC instead of fighting this decision tooth and nail alongside its citizens.

Bruce Hobbs

Maple Ridge

 

‘Food lands are disappearing throughout B.C.’

Editor, The News:

Re: Fill on farmland gone too far (Letters, July 27),  Government agencies behaving badly again (Letters, July 27, 2011)

The disgraceful desecration that is taking place on the farm on 224th Street is perhaps a reflection of the integrity of the elected and appointed officials whose responsibility it is to represent and safe-guard the well-being of a community’s citizens.

The site is ugly, trees could die, altered water flow could  increase flood hazards (as cited by the hydrologist’s study), and agricultural land is buried under tonnes of construction fill.

Add to this the bitter irony that Hang Cho is being financially and generously compensated for this disgusting mess and that he has this same property up for sale, advertised online as a site that has the potential for a development, and we are left with a very nasty taste in our mouths.

The majority of Maple Ridge council seems more concerned that developers should have a place to dump construction fill than they are about the environment, farmland or the dismay and frustration of residents who live in the area.

But it should not be necessary to remind the ALC that food lands are disappearing throughout British Columbia (indeed all over the planet) and that the most important mandate is the protection of agricultural land.

Moreover, it should have been the responsibility of these two august bodies to ensure that this project was given the green light by independent environmental consultants before they approved it.

It almost looks as if trashing this land is being encouraged in order to open it up for development.

Citizens of Maple Ridge should be grateful to Ms. Murrell, Mr. Hobbs and reporter Monisha Martins, who have enlightened us about what is going on here. Then we need to start demanding some integrity and accountability from our elected officials and from the agency that has been appointed to protect our farm lands.

The postal address of the ALC is: 133 – 4940 Canada Way, Burnaby, V5G 4K6.

The email address: ALCBurnaby@Victoria1.gov.bc.ca.

The postal address of  the District of Maple Ridge, 11995 Haney Place, Maple Ridge, V2X 6A9

The email address:   mayorandcouncil@mapleridge.org.

Diana Williams

Pitt Polder

Preservation Society

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