“Smart Growth” vs. urban sprawl

In the application to get the Garden City Lands excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve, the City of Richmond is still trumpeting its Smart Growth in the City Centre. However, the City is still proposing to develop the Garden City Lands as part of the City Centre growth. They continue to ignore the letter from Cheeying Ho, Executive Director of Smart Growth B.C., who felt compelled to correct the City’s blatantly false claim that the Garden City Lands are “Smart Growth.” Ms. Ho wrote:

While our organization generally refrains from commenting on specific land use plans or project proposals, we feel compelled to address the City of Richmond’s recent use of the term “smart growth” in recent communications documents. . . .

However, one of the key smart growth principles absent from the above statement is to “Protect and Enhance Agricultural Lands” including land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). This principle is included in the definition used by dozens of smart growth organizations and advocates from across North America. Furthermore, for a project or proposal to be considered “smart growth” it must incorporate not only some, but all of the principles. . . .

We are therefore writing to request that the term ‘smart growth’ be removed from the Garden City Lands public consultation process and that all principles of smart growth (including farmland protection) be used when defining the term in the future.

The protection and enhancement of ALR land is at the heart of every sustainable community. Food-producing lands, whether they are currently being farmed or not, will continue to be an extremely valuable asset. As fuel and transportation costs rise, producing food in close proximity to current and future populations will be a food security issue for all citizens.

If one reads the City’s application and the staff report analyzing the City Centre Community Plan, as approved by every member of Richmond Council on July 21, 2008, it becomes clear that the Garden City Lands are not even needed to meet the eventual 120,000 population target for the City Centre—and not needed to supply parkland in the near future, though parkland will be needed in the future beyond 2031. Building on farmland in those circumstances is not only NOT Smart Growth; it is also a clear example of urban sprawl.

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