11. Public Hearing

 The Garden City lands are still a 136-acre green area east of Garden City Road and north of Westminster Highway. The federal government’s Canada Lands Company and the Musqueam Indian Band, in agreement with the City of Richmond, want to turn the lands into mega-density development. However, that’s not allowed unless B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission excludes the lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The commission already refused, but the three parties are trying again.

Unlike them, many citizens want the lands to retain ALR protection and benefit the community in diverse ways. The big obstacle, the city’s non-preparation for likely scenarios, doesn’t have to be fatal.

At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 17, the public hearing at Richmond City Hall to begin the ALR-exclusion process continues for its fourth day. The city, project-managed by Canada Lands, wants to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR, but Council must hold the public hearing first.

Your input matters. Your submission may influence a council member. More important, the applicant must provide all written submissions to the Agricultural Land Commission.

Even if you know whether you want the Garden City lands saved or paved, you may want to learn more. At the richmond.ca website, you can download the exclusion application. Here, I’ll express its main arguments as questions, and I’ll answer each.

  1. Would excluding the lands from the ALR meet a community need by reducing Richmond’s parkland deficit? No! In this example, assume that the trade centre may be built. It would use over 20 acres, leaving 68 acres for development and less than 48 for park. If there would be only 12,000 new residents, then the city’s parkland standard would require 92 acres of parkland for the added population. Although only part of that (39 acres) would have to be in the City Centre, the development would cause a 44-acre increase in the city’s parkland deficit.
  2. Does the ALR exclusion meet a Musqueam Indian Band community need? Maybe. The exclusion plus city rezoning might give the band a profit of $100 million on top of what it gets from the “Reconciliation Agreement” and the Olympics. But why rip out the heart of Richmond to get it?
  3. Does the ALR exclusion provide a net benefit for agriculture? No! In fact, proposed ALR uses of the lands would yield a greater benefit to urban agriculture. That said, the agreement parties’ endowment fund would be overdue support for Richmond agriculture. But why tie it to two parties returning bits of their rezoning profits? Funding to sustain farming should come from the city’s recent $141 million windfall from selling Brighouse Estates land. After all, a long-ago council bought it to ensure that Richmond would always be green.
  4. Are the Garden City lands no good for farming? Be serious! They are highly suited to the proposed uses. The evidence from people who’ve grown produce in similar Richmond soil is overwhelming. The application also says irrigation water would be too expensive, but it would be reasdily available from reservoir lakes on the lands.
  5. Are the lands useless for food security? As it happens, they are highly useful for that purpose. The lands could make Richmond a world leader in urban agriculture, with improved food security.
  6. Is the proposed development “Smart Growth,” as the city claims? The reputable Smart Growth B.C., following established Smart Growth principles, has made clear that it is not.
  7. Should we fear what the Musqueam and Canada Lands will do if the commission rejects the ALR-exclusion application again?  Not if they’re honourable. Acting with goodwill, Canada Lands can enable the city to buy the property, using its right of first refusal, which is in an agreement the Musqueam also signed.

So, do you have views about the city’s intended application, managed by Canada Lands, to exclude the Garden City lands from the ALR? If so, make a submission to the public hearing. Perhaps first go to the Garden City Lands Coalition sites and read the related advice. Submit your views in writing, but aim to also present them as a speaker at the public hearing.

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