Monday’s Council meeting: ALR exclusions

Over 50% of Monday night’s Council agenda concerns proposed ALR exclusions within the City of Langford. While there are well over 55 letters, there are 40 unique individuals or organizations that wrote one or more submissions in opposition to one or more of the proposed ALR exclusions, including 2 unreadable submissions (possibly due to the process of scanning them in for the agenda package), and 1 submission in support of the proposed ALR exclusions (from one of the people seeking an ALR exclusion on their property). Some of those submissions were carbon copied to an email address advertised on this blog. Of the submissions CC:ed, 10 submissions do not appear to be in the agenda, so there could be an additional 10 submissions in opposition to some or all of the proposed ALR exclusions.

While ALR decisions are ultimately decided by the provincial body, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), local governments are part of the application process and effectively have a veto, as they can choose to simply not forward the application. The application is made through the local government which has three available courses of action:

1) to deny the application and not forward the application to the ALC,
2) to forward the application without support to the ALC,
3) to forward the application to the ALC with a letter of support from the local government.

Ironically, this Monday, directly after the “Farms, Farmers and Food Security” rally at the BC Legislature this past Saturday, Langford City Council is considering:

1) supporting the following parcels of land to be excluded from the ALR:
i) The entire property at 3569 Happy Valley Road;
ii) 0.79 acres of land (44% of the land) on the south western portion of the property at 3577 Happy Valley Rd.;
iii) 4.86 acres (66.5% of the total land) of land on the south eastern portion of the property at 3579 Happy Valley Road; and
iv) 2.79 acres (50% of the total land) of land on the eastern portion of the property at 935 Latoria Rd.

2) supporting the exclusion of property at 3660 Happy Valley Road

3) not objecting to the removal of land at 3622 Happy Valley Road

4) not objecting to the removal of land at 3634 Happy Valley Road

5) a) not objecting to the subdivision of land at 3420 Luxton Road that lies within the ALR or the use of the easterly portion (approximately 1.2 hectares, or 3 acres) of the land at 3420 Luxton Road for non-farming uses within the ALR, so that the property may be used for stormwater management (retention or detention) and community recreation, and

b) ) is not objecting to the removal of the remainder of the property at 3420 Luxton Road from the ALR (being a portion near the centre of the property at 3420 Luxton Road that lies within the ALR and a road access to that portion of the property from Luxton Road.)

The Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC), appointed by Mayor and Council of Langford, was strongly encouraged by the speaker, on behalf of the application at 3420 Luxton Road, Jim Hartshorne, and the support staff to the committee, City Planner, Matthew Baldwin, to make a recommendation on this property despite not having a prepared written report from the proponent or the city staff. The AAC’s recommendations, made relunctantly, were based on verbal reports lacking specifics from both the proponent, and the city planner that repeatedly both cited severe time constraints around finalizing this application as part of the storm water management plan for South Langford, and how this plan would be a benefit to agriculture in the area. However, the recommendations of the Jan. 5th, 2009 AAC meeting were not brought before Council prior to the next meeting of the AAC on March 30th, 2009. Therefore, the application for 3420 Luxton Road could have been made with all the supporting paperwork at the second meeting of the committee with the same resulting timeline.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee, when it first met in January, was compromised of two local agrologists (agrology being the science of agricultural) who both served on the ALC at various times, a nursery owner operating an appropriate business on ALR land in South Langford, a local resident who gardens and has an extensive knowledge of the history of South Langford, and a local Happy Valley resident who was elected Chair of the AAC due to her experience serving on Langford’s Planning, Zoning and Affordable Housing Committee.

The extensive expertise of the AAC was never applied to considering the public submissions already received at the time of their first meeting. Granted many of the submissions were submitted after the committee met Jan. 5th, 2009, but this was due largely to when the committee met in relation to the ALR Exclusion application process, as most of the applications brought before the committee were still incomplete (some in regards to the legally required advertising and posting of signs that alert the public so they can make submissions). Those submissions from the public that could have been provided to the committee were not.

The second meeting of the ACC in March there were three more people at the table. Two more citizen members, reportedly simply absent from the first meeting due to being out of town, and began serving without introductions. One of them was another citizen who also serves on the Planning, Zoning and Affordable Housing Committee, the other was not known to any of the audience members, and the third new face at the committee table was Councillor Lillian Szpak.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee at its second meeting March 30th, 2009 amended its recommendation of exclusion made on January 5″‘, 2009 regarding 3622 Happy Valley until bylaw enforcement issues are resolved. All the committee members, including those absent from the first meeting, had to vote to re-refer the recommendations from their Jan. 5 meeting to Mayor and Council for their consideration due to the overly long delay. At the second meeting of the committee there was a lengthy discussion as to the scope of their mandate, the terms of reference for the committee and a good debate as to the value of financial contributions to the Langford ALR Acquisition Fund if the fund has no specific mandate. One of the possible uses of the fund is to acquire land not in the ALR suitable for agriculture, but those costs would far exceed the funds being collected, or the value of the lands being excluded once they were removed from the ALR. So, the committee decided that it would not recommend exclusion for any of the properties they considered at the March meeting since they were unable to agree on a net benefit to agriculture, which is what is needed to remove lands from the ALR. This relevation by some of the committee members calls into question whether they were fully aware of all the issues at hand in making their recommendations at their inaugural meeting on Jan. 5th, 2009, and it is those recommendations Langford Mayor and Council will be considering Monday night.

Those wishing to speak on these exclusion applications, be at Langford City Hall at 877 Goldstream Avenue at 7PM April 20th and be prepared to participate in Public Participation near the very beginning of the council meeting.