Richmond council rejects appeal to pull farmland out of ALR

Proponents for properties on Burrows Road argued the Agricultural Land Commission should debate the merits of their proposal.

Richmond city council didn’t support the removal of three properties from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) despite last-minute appeals from the applicants.

The applicants argued the decision should lie with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), the experts in the area, whether the properties at 14540, 14680 and 14920 Burrows Rd. should have their farming designation removed.

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The proponent for the applicants, Colin Fry, told council on Monday the owners have “legitimate issues” to discuss with the ALC regarding farming. He asked council to forward it to the ALC for that discussion, either with their endorsement or not, to “put these matters to bed once and for all.”

“What we’re trying to do is home in on the agricultural arguments, not what the land can be used for later,” Fry said.

An application to take land out of the ALR first goes through the city, and city council decides whether or not to forward it to the ALC. The ALC then makes the final decision whether it can be pulled out.

City staff didn’t recommend forwarding the application to the ALC because the properties are designated for farming both municipally and by Metro Vancouver and because the application doesn’t propose any net benefit to agriculture. The staff report also notes that properties could be actively farmed if the land was improved, for example, if there were better drainage, it would improve the quality of the soil.

The son-in-law of one of the property owners, Rob Ast, told council he was “dumbfounded” by the process of their application, saying no one discussed the details or merits of the proposal at a recent planning meeting, compared to the Agricultural Advisory Committee meeting where he felt their concerns were heard.

Ast said he doesn’t feel the city is concerned about the agricultural problems with the properties which he called a “40-acre bathtub” that has six inches of topsoil on top of a clay base.

Ast asked council to forward the applications for “review and consideration” to the ALC, which he called the “the legal body with the mandate, jurisdiction and expertise” to determine what land is suitable for farming.

“You don’t ask a cop for a legal opinion, you ask a courtroom judge,” he said.

Ast's in-laws bought the property in 1973 and farmed hay on it, but they lost their farm classification in 2003.

Coun. Harold Steves pointed out that the properties were designated agricultural by the City of Richmond in 1958 and were then integrated into the ALR when that was established in 1973.

The three exclusion applications for the properties on Burrows Road, just east of No. 6 Road, are being submitted by the three different owners. Exclusion applications for these properties were submitted in 1988 and 1997. The 1988 application was withdrawn before council considered it.

The 1997 application was to pull the properties out of the ALR so they could be used as industrial properties – council refused to forward it then to the ALC.

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