Sunday, June 17, 2007

Letter To The Editor - May 27, 2007 - From Donna Passmore - Re: Another Opposition Letter to Langley Township ALR Applications

Re: Township of Langley By-Laws Contravenes Agricultural Land Commission Act

June 13, 2007
Provincial Agricultural Land Commission
133-4940 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC V5G 4K6

Attention: Erik Karlsen, Chair

Dear Sir:

On behalf of the Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition (“FVCC”), I write to urge the Agricultural Land Commission to address the contraventions in the Township of Langley’s by-laws and Official Community Plan that contravene the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Attached for your records and review is a copy of the Minutes of Township Council’s meeting of May 28th, which lists five new applications for subdivision and exclusion of lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve (“ALR”), which will bring to 22 the number of such applications FVCC has had to oppose since January 1, 2007.

As the Commission’s records will show, many of the most recent applications from Langley Township are in the area of the Hopington Aquifer and Salmon River Uplands, an area that I understand is regarded as the best place in Canada for growing strawberries.

Langley balked when the ALR was introduced in 1973 and its Official Community Plan (circa 1978) flagrantly disregarded the objectives and boundaries of the ALR. Two intensive reviews of Langley’s ALR land in the late 70’s/early 80’s (one focused only on the Salmon River Uplands) was Township’s opportunity to tweak the boundaries and exclude land already diminished by development. What remains in Langley’s ALR is good farmland, meriting the full protective forces of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Rich Wildlife Poor Protection, a report recently jointly issued by the David Suzuki Foundation and Sierra Legal Defence Fund paints a grim picture about the state of BC’s wildlife, and in particular tells us that 17% of BC’s wildfowl population is in peril from lack of protection. Although not the primary objective of the Agricultural Land Reserve, one of its adjunct benefits is that by protecting farmland it has helped protect foodlands for millions of resident and migrating wildfowl.

By allowing Langley Township’s by-laws to contravene the Agricultural land Commission Act, the Commission is:

Undermining the validity of its own legislation;
Creating an expectation – particularly among land speculators – that these lands are open for development;
Failing to live up to its own mission to “Preserve agricultural land and encourage and enable farm businesses throughout British Columbia”;
Failing to live up to spirit of the ALR and the public expectation that the Agricultural Land Reserve protects our foodlands; and
In the case of Hopington Aquifer and Salmon River Uplands, potentially failing to protect areas with high Environmentally Sensitive Area designations from inappropriate development;

Langley Township has had more than twenty-five years to amend its Official Community Plan to conform to the ALR. FVCC is aware that the Commission has asked Langley Township to effect this, and that you held a day-long meeting in Langley last autumn to educate the community about the ALR.

Rather than seeing any serious or prompt move to make its bylaws conform to provincial law, we are seeing a rapid escalation in the number of applications being approved by the Township.

Enough is enough! In light of the indicting conclusions about the state of our food security contained in BC Ministry of Agriculture’s recent BC Food Self Reliance Report, it is incumbent upon the Commission to use all powers available to it under s. 46 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act (and all other legislative tools and policies available to it) to force the Township of Langley to move quickly to conform to the Act and protect our foodlands. In the meantime, we ask the Commission to implement an absolute moratorium on reviewing all non-emergency applications from Langley Township pertaining to lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve.


Donna Passmore

Agriculture Campaigner

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