New lessons from Upton Farm

As we have mentioned in earlier posts, there’s a situation that’s much like ours in Prince Edward Island. Their Garden City Lands is called Upton Farm.

For some readers, this post will be an update. Let’s begin with some background as a review for them and an introduction for others.

Upton Farm is on the edge of Charlottetown. When a federal department no longer needed the property, the government sold it to Canada Lands Company CLC at its fair market value so that CLC could perform its land disposal role with it. Although the property is roughly 250 acres, CLC managed to slip its development plans past Charlottetown council before the citizens knew what had hit them.

After the citizens caught on and collected a petition about as large as ours (around 2,000 names), the Charlottetown politicians at all levels of government backed up the citizens. CLC, which had started by brushing off the citizens as being too late, quickly changed its tune when the politicians acted with the people in that united way.

At the request of the mayor of Charlottetown, the premier of PEI, and the federal minister responsible for Prince Edward Island, CLC committed to the Upton Farm Consultation Process. Besides facilitators, the process involves the City of Charlottetown, Province of PEI, Upton Farm Preservation Network (UFPN), and CLC. They work by consensus, and there is agreement that there will be essentially no development of the lands during the process.

Although there are differences along with the similarities, there is much that we in BC can learn from PEI. For a start, we can learn the value of politicians of all factions and levels working together. In particular, that would involve responsible behaviour from our Pave Garden City city council members.

We can also learn from the goal that the parties in the PEI process agreed on: “To identify strategies to ensure that the outcomes of this process are consistent with keeping/making the Upton Farm lands green.” All of the Garden City Lands parties profess a commitment to the land/environment and/or community values, so it would seem reasonable to substitute the name of the Richmond property for the Charlottetown one to come up with an excellent ready-made goal.

In the Upton Farm Consultation Process minutes, which one can access from the Upton Farm Preservation Network blog, it is especially encouraging to see that CLC, which had begun badly, is being so reasonable and collaborative with the community, in keeping with CLC’s mandate.

For example, the minutes show that CLC has stated two financial goals: “(a) divest of the land, and (b) recoup its investment.” They are exactly what we have been pointing out as the appropriate financial goals for CLC with the Garden City Lands. In our case, they would involve CLC divesting the title to Richmond and being reimbursed the $5 million it has paid the federal government and perhaps the rest of the $9.54 million that it committed to paying under the basic Garden City Lands agreement, the MOU.

The minutes also tell us that “UFPN shared their hope that the CLC will see the Upton property as an opportunity to do something new and different and hold it up as an example for years to come.” And that’s essentially the Garden City Lands Coalition’s hope for CLC. If CLC can transform itself here too, the results will be amazing for CLC, which will be one of the big winners.

The PEI process is moving at a rather slow pace, and that’s fine. Like the UFPN and Charlottetown, we don’t mind enjoying the lands in their present state for as long as the process takes, even if it takes years. What matters is to get it right, not to get it fast.

Those are the main things I hope we can learn from our friends in PEI (and there is certainly a sense in which they are our friends, since they have expressed their support). As a matter of interest, it also continues to be fun to see how much of the vision for Upton Farm is a vision that people here have expressed for the Garden City Lands. For example, these points are all part of the Upton Farm vision:

·        Maintain the land as a piece of Island farmscape

·        Create trails for running, walking, biking

·        Maintain the land as an area for learning about nature

·        Maintain the area as a place where residents plant trees in memory of loved ones

·        Maintain as open green space accessible to the public

·        Maintain the land as a passive recreation area

The PEI vision goes further in some ways, and the BC vision goes further in others, but we are very much alike and in the big picture, we hope, in ultimate success.


1 Comment »

  1. 1
    uptonfarm Says:

    Hi folks. We have news!! We have struck a deal with CLC and the Province of PEI to keep more than half (approx 152 acres of waterfront land) GREEN and in a trust. The rest of the land is being used as the site for a new initiative (a bio-commons research park) and a new nursing care facility. Sometimes the only path is via compromise.

    Please check out our website for all the details.

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