The owner of the former Pelton tree nursery in Maple Ridge, the Aquilini Investment Group – which operates some of the largest blueberry and cranberry farms in the world – wants to take the land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The company that also owns the Vancouver Canucks bought the property, 202 acres located at 203rd Street, north of Golden Ears Way, formerly the Pelton Reforestation Nursery, last September.
It is the third attempt to remove the land from the agricultural reserve.
The first failed in 2004. Then in 2010, the Agricultural Land Commission unanimously rejected an application because the property had “significant agricultural capability.”
So what will be different this time around?
The Aquilini group is willing to put agricultural land in elsewhere to take out the former Pelton property, on which it envisions a business park. The company also ensures that the replacement property would be farmed.
Mayor Nicole Read wants the city to at least consult with the public before council decides whether to forward the exclusion application, and suggested that residents – not “strongly entrenched” interest groups – might prefer a tax break and job creation.
But, back in 2006, according to Stats Canada and a city staff report, Maple Ridge had the second highest percentage of residents in the region working within its city borders.
Local farmers in the area are already expressing their opposition to the exclusion application.
And the land commission, in its last ruling, said that removing the former Pelton land would affect the viability of nearby farms, some with historic designations.
As well, planning director Christine Carter told council that staff at the Agricultural Land Commission said nothing has changed from the previous removal application.
Except the owners of the land, and members of council, and city staff.
The latter two have enough on their plates, with the recreation plan and housing the homeless, without dividing the community in a debate over farmland.
But maybe third time’s a charm?
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News