Richmond Coun. Harold Steves helped found the ALR 40 years ago and is vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's regional planning and agriculture committee.

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves helped found the ALR 40 years ago and is vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's regional planning and agriculture committee.

Farmland defender Steves sees red over ALR threats

Fears grow for future of ALC, Metro Vancouver powers to control sprawl

Metro Vancouver’s determination to protect scarce agricultural land is in for a test as two local cities push to reclassify farms for development and the provincial government eyes radical changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, who helped found the ALR 40 years ago, says the recent moves send an unfortunate signal that the firm line of the past may soon crumble, making trade in farmland very lucrative.

“The speculators are out buying up land already,” said Steves.

He pointed to a 130-hectare parcel of ALR farmland in south Richmond listed for sale this year at $55 million – at least double its agricultural value.

Steves recently spoke to prospective Asian buyers of the Gilmore Estates property, who he said had no idea what the ALR was or its relevance to their potential investment.

There are points all over the region where farmland defenders say agriculture is under attack.

The most prominent is Delta’s controversial Southlands development, which was approved by the local council last week and will go to an eventual vote of the Metro board.

The 217-hectare parcel of Tsawwassen agricultural land is outside the regional growth plan’s urban containment boundary and redrawing the line to allow construction of 950 homes and change the land designation from agricultural to general urban will take a two-thirds weighted vote of Metro directors.

Langley Township is also at odds with Metro, which has rejected the township’s plan to develop a “University District” of homes and shops on farmland near Trinity Western University.

Metro and the municipality are in court over whether the growth plan supersedes the community’s plan. Metro also rejected development plans in two other swathes of ALR farmland in Langley this fall.

Steves also opposes a plan in Port Moody to redevelop the former Ioco oil refinery lands, which he said will have the domino effect of removing industrial land and putting more pressure on farmland elsewhere from the port or industrial users.

On top of the internal tussling between local cities and the region over the growth strategy comes the province’s core review, which in part targets the Agricultural Land Commission.

Cabinet documents leaked last week suggested the ALR could be split into two zones, with an “anything goes” mandate in Interior areas beyond the Okanagan.

It also indicated the ALC could be modernized by moving it inside the agriculture ministry and that community growth applications could be decided by local governments.

Giving more control over farmland development to local cities and presumably taking it away from the regional district and the ALC would open the door to much more farmland alienation, Steves warned.

“That would effectively pit one community against the other in a rush for urban growth, expanding urban sprawl throughout the region.”

Steves called the apparent plans to end the ALC’s independence and alter the ALR an “amazing about face” so soon after an election by a government that had previously reviewed the commission and okayed a strategy to strengthen it and increase its budget.

Bill Bennett, the minister heading the core review, has denied major changes to the ALR are in the offing.

Metro’s regional planning and agriculture committee last Friday voted to call on the province to ensure the core review protects and enhances both the ALR and an independent ALC, and to reconfirm the ALC will get $4 million over three years to provide better oversight of ALR lands.

“It’s extremely important that the land commission be independent,” said Steves, who is vice-chair of the committee.

“We’re in for a major test of both the regional growth strategy and the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Metro Vancouver area,” he added. “These are major issues ahead of us that are a threat to food security in the region.”

Just Posted

A mixed-use development with 69 market rental units and 10 commercial units is proposed for the 2300-block of King George Boulevard. (Thinkspace rendering)
Pair of South Surrey apartment proposals move forward

Council gives third reading to rezoning applications for market-rental and residential projects

Launched in January, Uplift Canada was founded by Tsawwassen resident Maggie Larocque. (submitted photo)
Surrey shelters get clothing collected June 26 by Uplift Canada

Book a pickup on website of the new non-profit, founded by Delta resident

Converter thefts have increased dramatically as the price of platinum has skyrocketed. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press photo)
Catalytic converter thefts continue to plague Delta

Police say the thefts are on the rise across the city, with seven incidents on Thursday, June 17

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
‘Stay-at-home mom’ works to raise $25K to help Options build housing in Surrey

Tammy Bourelle boosts ‘Women of Options’ fundraising campaign, which ends June 30

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read