Surprise council meeting, Mon., May 11, 4 p.m.

A surprise meeting of the General Purposes Committee of Richmond Council has just been called for 4 p.m. on Monday, May 11, in the Anderson Room at Richmond City Hall, 6911 No. 3 Road (2nd floor).

The mayor and city staff will try to get their ideas about Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) past council when citizens, the media, and perhaps even councillors are looking the other way because of Tuesday’s provincial election and electoral-system vote.

The suspect ideas in the staff report are related to the Green Zone, which the Regional Growth Strategy is dividing into “conservation/recreation” and “agricultural” zones. The staff recommendations on PDF pages 4 and 7 of the agenda, which includes the February 2009 draft of the strategy, would evade the strategy’s proposal that would strengthen the protection of agricultural lands

A particular concern is that the Garden City Lands are not shown as “Agricultural” zone in the Economic Areas map (Map 4, PDF page 41). As you can see from a Google map of the Garden City Lands, they are west of the Green Zone boundary that appears in Map 4. That boundary is at No. 4 Road, but the lands go west from No. 4 to Garden City. (That is because the peat bog extends west toward Garden City in that area. When forming the peat bog, nature did not choose to work in straight lines and rectangles.)

I believe that Richmond should be supporting the strategy, not weakening it, and that should certainly involve putting the Garden City Lands in the Green Zone now and in the “agricultural” zone later.

The Garden City Lands have always been in the Agricultural Land Reserve, right from when the ALR was founded over thirty-five years ago. There have been intense challenges to that status from very powerful speculators, including a massive application that was the largest the Agricultural Land Commission has ever dealt with. In response, the commission has repeatedly affirmed that the Garden City Lands are prime farmland and belong in the reserve. It has repeatedly stated that the lands are capable of agriculture and suitable for agriculture. There is probably no parcel of land in Metro Vancouver that has been more emphatically shown to belong in the current Green Zone and the proposed agricultural zone.

I encourage people to come to the meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday, May 11, and speak on the “Save Garden City” side of the issue (for up to five minutes) and/or provide moral support to the citizens and council members who do.

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