The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is a provincial zone that gives priority to agricultural use. Nearly 40% of Richmond is Agricultural Land Reserve. It is all prime (after site improvements). We have some of the best land on the planet to grow food.
Richmond City Council often considers local applications to exclude land from the Agricultural Land Reserve or allow non-ALR uses on ALR land. In the past decade, the city even applied twice to remove the 136-acre Garden City Lands from the ALR. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) said No. The ALC is an independent tribunal responsible for preserving B.C.’s agricultural land, encouraging farming, and ensuring agricultural compatibility with the plans and policies of local government.
For the 2014 municipal elections, the Agricultural Land Reserve issue is as critical as ever. The recent spring sitting of the legislature saw the BC Government pass Bill 24, the ALR Amendment Act (also called the bill to kill the ALR). One effect is that 90% of BC’s ALR land is at greater risk to be lost. It was a travesty to see (on TV) this bill rammed through into law without fair consultation. The members of city councils are the last line of defense.
Here in Richmond, nearly half our ALR is under roads and buildings, and more is at risk to urban sprawl has been enabled by federal agencies (i.e. the Port of Metro Vancouver) and even our own city council. Thankfully, we also have some of the strongest farm advocates in the province. Recently Ray Galawan, Bob Featherstone and FarmWatchBC were vigilant for over 400 days at a Finn Road property to stop the dumping of construction waste on prime farmland. Now there are plans for a mega-mansion there, and applications will soon be presented to Richmond City Council.
We need a majority on council who oppose such things so firmly that we end these attempts to squander our farmland forever. On the other hand, if history repeats itself, 4 more years of the current Richmond City Council would mean the proliferation of mega-homes, port container storage, and inactive ALR farmland.
RITE Richmond’s Carol Day and Michael Wolfe have put together a Development Action Plan to provide farmers with better access to ALR land. We have incentives for Agricultural Land Reserve owners, mentoring partnerships, and a public education series as part of our plan.