Langford’s AAC to reconsider 2 properties

Langford’s Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) is meeting again to reconsider two properties. Both had previously been looked at and the AAC had failed to come to agreement on whether there was a benefit to agriculture in removing them from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). For the properties to be reconsidered, presumably a new argument will be presented on how removing them will create a net benefit to agriculture.

If you need a primer on ALR and the goings on in Langford so far you could check out:

ALR exclusion applications forwarded to the ALC

Monday’s Council Meeting: ALR exclusions

If you have not yet read, “Let Them Eat Condos,” in the current issue of Focus Magazine, you could read that at:

www.focusonline.ca

Up until the meeting time, you can download the agenda, and full agenda package here.

Please note: after the meeting these documents will no longer be available online.

You can also find the Minutes, of the 2 past AAC meetings at the City of Langford’s website.

Here’s some highlights from the staff reports:

CITY OF LANGFORD
AGRICULTURAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 @ 5:30 p.m.

REPORTS
a) 3398 Luxton Road
– Staff Report (File No. ALR-06-05)

That the Agricultural Advisory Committee recommend that Council:
OPTION 1
1. Direct staff to submit a letter report to the Agricultural Land Commission stating that the
City would support the exclusion of property at 3398 Luxton Road from the Agricultural
Land Reserve subject to any future redevelopment of the subject property being guided
by “Edge Planning” and/or “Agricultural Urbanism” principles at the time of rezoning to
attain a net benefit to agriculture;
AND
2. Request a cash contribution of $150,000.00 from the applicant at time of building permit
towards the Agricultural Land Reserve Fund that would be exclusively allocated in
regular payments to the Joseph Lohbrunner Farm Project at 1152 Lippincott Road;
OR
3. Request a cash contribution of $150,000.00 from the applicant at time of building permit
towards the Agricultural Land Reserve Fund that would be exclusively allocated in
regular payments to the Joseph Lohbrunner Farm Project at 1152 Lippincott Road AND
a one acre parcel from the subject lands to the City to be secured in a community land
trust managed by the City for farming-purposes;
OR
4. Request an amenity land contribution worth $150,000.00 to be secured in a community
land trust managed by the City for farming-purposes;
AND
5. Direct staff to work with the property owner to ensure that any future redevelopment of
land that may be excluded from the ALR is guided by ensuring carful edge planning and
buffering is undertaken to protect the present and future agricultural use of the ALR
lands;
OR
OPTION 2
6. Reject the application to exclude the property at 3398 Luxton Road from the ALR.
—————————————————————————————–

b) 3639 Happy Valley Road
– Staff Report (File No. ALR-09-01)
BACKGROUND
The applicant has provided another agrologist ‘s report which provides a more detailed analysis
of the central portion of the subject property (Map Area C – shown on page 5).
The overall land capability summary notes that in general, the property (Map units A, B and C)
are moderately well-suited for agriculture with improvable limitations due to aridity, fertility and
undesirable soil structure. The stoniness and depth to bedrock limitations within Map Unit A,
however, is considered unimprovable.
The report explains that the minor limitations for map Unit B and C could be improved with deep plowing, irrigation, and fertilization. However, the report also notes that these improvements may not be economically feasible due to the small size (1.03ha) of farmable land. The small size should be taken into consideration in evaluating the potential of this parcel to support an economically viable farm operation.
Council may wish to note that the ALR lands west of the subject site are identified in the
Agricultural Suitability Review as possible exclusion with net benefit to agriculture, however the adjacent properties on the east side of Happy Valley Road are proposed to be retained in the ALR.

CONCEPT PLANS (PROPOSED BY THE APPLICANT)
The applicant has submitted two draft concept plans of which he may wish to pursure by way of a future rezoning application . Both plans would require meeting all of the City ‘s standards at a later date if a rezoning application was to come forward and these plans do not presuppose the requirements of the Approving Officer or the potential lot layout.
The applicant has explained that the proposed concept plans represent the minimum threshold
of economic feasibility. In Option #2, the applicant is proposing to extend the properties into
Map Area B so the potential future lot owners could have larger yards for food producing
gardens. It should be noted that these plans may not coincide with the Agrologist’s report with
respect to what is or is not farmable due to the soil limitations and costs to upgrade the land.

NET BENEFIT TO AGRICULTURE
Council may wish to request that as a condition of any future rezoning, land improvements such as deep plowing, irrigation and fertilization are undertaken by the applicant, to the satisfaction of a Professional Agrologist, on the lands that are considered improvable (notwithstanding the financial cost of upgrades) and therefore could be recommended to be retained In the ALR (the remaining 1.94 acres /77.4% of the site).
Additionally, to ensure the farmable land provides a considerable benefit to agricultural
production, Council may wish to have the City acquire a portion of the ALR land to be secured in a public trust (City of Langford), and be available to undercapitalized farmers on a lease, or
lease to purchase basis for agricultural uses. Altemaltively, the applicant has proposed to retain the farmable land for the purpose of farming it for themselves to produce a variety of berry crops.
Another option for Council is to secure a cash donation for a value commensurate with the
property at 3398 Luxton Road (approximately $150,000 per acre ) to be payable to the City of
Langford’s ALR Fund so the City can either use the cash to acquire farmable land or to allocate
these funds to other means to boost the net benefit to agricultural in South Langford.

**(I note that in the Madrone report are hand written notes by the ownder indicating (where the report suggests fertilizing could improve the class of soil) that fertilizing would harm Bliston Creek. – Cheryl)

OPTIONS
That the Agricultural Advisory Committee recommend that Council:
1. Direct staff to submit a letter report to the Agricultual Land Commission stating that the City would support the following portion of land to be excluded from the ALR subject to any
future redevelopment of the subject property being guided by ” Edge Planning” and/or
“Agricultural Urbanism” principles at the time of rezoning to attain a net benefit to
agriculture:
i) Map Unit A as shown in the Madrone Environmental Services Ltd. report dated March
3′”, 2008 comprising 0.56 acres (22.6% of the land) of the northern portion of the
property at 3639 Happy Valley Road; OR
ii) Map Unit A, C and a portion of B as shown in the Figure 4 – Option #2 comprising
approximately 1.25 acres (50% of the land) of the northern and central portion of the
property at 3639 Happy Valley Road; OR
iii) Map Unit A, C and B as shown in the Madrone Environmental Services Ltd. report dated
March 3rtl , 2008 comprising 2.5 acres (100% of the land) of the northern and central
portion of the property at 3639 Happy Valley Road.
AND
iv) The applicant be advised that the City is not making any representations with respect to
any future subdivision of the property.
AND
2. That Council will accept one or more of the following to satisfy the City’s objectives of
increasing the net benefit to agriculture:
i) That the applicant will retain ownership of the remaining ALR land and upgrade the land
to make it farmable so the applicant can farm the land to produce a variety of berry
species; OR
it) That the lands that may be retained in the ALR are donated to the City and secured in a
public trust (City of Langford ), and be available to undercapitalized farmers on a lease,
or lease to purchase basis for agricultural uses; OR
III) That the applicant retain half of the land to remain in the ALR and that the other half be
donated to the City and secured in a public trust (City of Langford), and be available to
undercapitalized farmers on a lease, or lease to purchase basis for agricultural uses;
AND
iv) That regardless of the Options chosen, the applicant provide a cash donation for a
value commensurate with the property at 3398 Luxton Road (approximately $150,000
per acre) to be payable to the City of Langford ‘s ALR Fund so the City can either use the
cash to acquire farmable land or to allocate these funds to other means to boost the net
benefit to agricultural in South Langford.
AND
3. Direct staff to work with the property owner to ensure that any future redevelopment of land that may be excluded from the ALR is guided by the following:
i) Ensure careful edge planning and buffering is undertaken to protect the present and future agricultural use of the ALR lands; and
OR
4. Reject the application to exclude the property at 3639 Happy Vallery Road from the ALR.

ALR Exclusion applications forwarded to the ALC

Despite a multitude of submissions against Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) removals, and a number of people in attendance that spoke in opposition directly to Mayor & Council this past Monday night during Public Participation, Langford Council, without discussion, voted to send the requests to the Province’s Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for possible exclusion from the ALR.

Many of the speakers complimented Langford Council on commissioning the 2007 Brian French report on ALR lands in Langford and on striking Langford’s Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC) to make recommendations to council on ALR lands.

Pleas were made for Council to find creative ways to support agriculture in Langford as the total area farmed on Vancouver Island has been dropping while the communities on the island, like Langford, have fast growing populations. One speaker questioned, if there are bylaws and regulations to protect riparian areas, why not agricultural lands? Speakers pointed out to council that:

  • small parcels of land that can be worked by hand are a benefit to a young farmer starting out
  • new techniques in small-scale intensive farming can produce high yields off small plots
  • the South Langford area was historically a grain producing region
  • that some of the farming attempts on land being sought for exclusion were not appropriate to the land
  • that other types of farming done in the South Langford on similar soils and drainage are successful.

It was also noted by another speaker that greenhouse operations do not need good soil, but would benefit from the sunny open flat land being considered for exclusion, and that, “it’s a high labour industry and people who’re successful at it can make good money.” Some speakers also raised the issue what net benefit to agriculture can an exclusion bring? Noting that even Langford’s own AAC at their second meeting in March debated what an exclusion of ALR land could be balanced against for a net benefit to agriculture when Langford has no set policy on acquiring or supporting agricultural land, nor does the Agricultural Land Acquisition Fund have a set mandate on what the money collected from ammenity charges on development will actually be used for. Even Mayor Young, at the end of the ALR discussion noted, “Where we have a problem in Langford, when we have a $500 per unit fund, it would take us 50 years to buy much of this property.”” He suggested a creative solution, “dual uses, recreation first, then turn it back to agriculture,” however that strategy would only retain current ALR land in the reserve, it is not a strategy to add more viable agricultural land to the reserve to offset the proposed and already done exclusions within the City Langford.

BC Green Party candidate for Juan de Fuca, James Powell, a Metchosin farmer, echoed the sentiments of Langford residents indicating he felt, “the Brian French report was a reasonable document,” however it remains “largely inspirational and not acted upon,” thus exclusions from the ALR were being considered, “without providing clear net benefits to agriculture.”

Some procedural irregularities were raised by myself, and went unaddressed by the Mayor and Councillors present. I noted at least 9 submissions I was personally aware of, made to the City of Langford, but not included in the agenda package for the Council’s consideration. I also expressed that I found it odd that the Agricultural Advisory Committee, with its vast and diverse experience, did not get the opportunity to consider any of the public submissions. Matthew Baldwin indicated that this was outside the mandate of the AAC, and Mayor Young indicated, “there were lots of ways to do things that might not suit me.” I challenged, “Yes, but are you not open to improvement?” as I saw the expertise of the committee being under-utilized and burdensome for the Council to have to consider the many public submissions. I also pointed out if the applications were fully completed before they came before the AAC, then the committee could consider the completed applications, not just partial applications or vague verbal reports, and the required advertising and sign posting would have been done, thus the public submissions would be received by City Hall and those could be reviewed by the AAC, along with the proponents and city staff reports.

Another person and myself highlighted that people making submissions to the City of Langford received confusing and misleading replies from City Planner, Matthew Baldwin. In his replies (see his reply here) he stated, “I would suggest that you consider writing to the commission,” even though submissions are to be made to the local government. He also stated, “the decision whether or not land is removed from the ALR rests solely with the ALC, and not with Council for the City of Langford.” I disagreed, and also debated this with Mayor Young who expressed the City of Langford has only 2 options, however there are three very different options, which give local governments varying levels of involvement in the decision making process, thus, the final decision, but certainly not the entire decision process, rests with the Province’s ALC.

I also questioned whether Thomas Atherton, a member of the AAC who appeared at the second meeting of the committee in March, was the same person as T. Atherton, a property owner who applied for an ALR exclusion, that was considered by the AAC at the first meeting in January. Both City Planner Matthew Baldwin and Mayor Stew Young indicated he was, and neither expressed concerned over his possibly conflict of interest. Mayor Young was quick to point out Thomas Atherton was not in attendance at the first meeting when his property was considered. It should be noted however, as a person who attended both AAC meetings, when asked at the second AAC meeting why he did not attend the first meeting Thomas Atherton indicated, after some humming and ha-ing, he was simply out of town. Later in that meeting he participated in a unanimous vote to re-forward the committee’s recommendations from the January meeting (including a recommendation on his own exclusion application) to Council for consideration, something else Mayor Young, and City Planner Matthew Baldwin disagreed with me was an issue. The seven exclusion applications, some with letters of support from the City of Langford, some without, are being forwarded and will now be considered for exclusion by the provincial Agricultural Land Commission.