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City council to decide fate of unauthorized soil on Richmond ALR property

A property owner is looking to develop a blueberry farm on the land.
Richmond city council.

A Richmond property owner is looking for approval from Richmond city council to keep unauthorized soil on its land to develop a blueberry farm in the future.

A soil or fill application at 8251 No. 5 Rd. was submitted to council to have their request referred to and approved by the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALC).

The landowner is looking to keep 1,100 cubic meters of unauthorized soil and “remediate the property to an appropriate agricultural standard” in order to proceed with their plans for a blueberry farm, according to a city staff report.

City spokesperson Clay Adams told the Richmond News they are unaware of where the soil came from.

“Neither the city nor the ALC issued permits or gave approval for fill to be brought onto the property,” said Adams, adding no fines have been issued by the city nor are they aware of any “financial penalties” given by the ALC.

Any soil or fill brought onto an Agricultural Land Reserve property needs prior permission from the ALC.

Geoff Hughes-Games, an agrologist (soil specialist) hired by the property owner, explained to council at Jan. 23’s general purposes committee meeting that it is “difficult to grow crops” on the property right now.

However, the plan is to use the soil and mineral sources already on the land with additional manure or compost to create a topsoil when needed, which will create a better crop-growing property.

If city council or the ALC rejects the application, the owner will need to arrange plans with professionals and arrange to relocate the soil accordingly.

Coun. Laura Gillanders questioned whether the 1.23-acre property could eventually become a blueberry farm and described the proposal as a “financially unviable plan” due to the planting area being too small.

“The only way to have farm status on a property this small is to do vegetables,” she said.

Coun. Carol Day was concerned about drainage issues that could potentially affect neighbouring properties, especially the higher area of where the soil is currently in. She was told there were no plans for raising the property and drain storms are in the area to address the issue.

The motion was carried with Couns. Kash Heed, Andy Hobbs, Alexa Loo, Bill McNulty and Chak Au in favour to be brought forth to city council while Couns. Day, Gillanders and Michael Wolfe voted against it.

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