Competing visions of the ALR in Metro, Part 3

Steve Lorney of Stonecroft Construction Management. attended last Thursday’s “Competing Visions of the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver.” Commenting in this blog, he wrote:

There was no clear response from the pro-ALR speakers to a number of points raised on Thursday.  I would love to hear a rational argument to the following ALR-induced problems:

URBAN SPRAWL: Development must now “leap-frog” over ALR lands.  A commute in from South Surrey on Hwy 99 has one driving for miles past fields only half-heartedly farmed, if farmed at all.

That quote takes us to the end of Steve’s first item, which I’ll address. Or at least I’ll try. My difficulty at the moment is  in getting a handle on the problem that he labels as urban sprawl. His office is on West Georgia, and I’m inferring that Steve wants to drive past urban development all the way to Downtown Vancouver from South Surrey. In particular, if I understand correctly, he doesn’t want to see ALR land that does not seem to be well used for farming. Maybe we need to resolve our competing visions of what urban sprawl is.

In any case, Patrick Condon supports the ALR, and his “2050 and Beyond” presentation at last Thursday’s event addressed how Metro Vancouver can house four million people by mid-century with minimal loss of ALR land. I don’t understand why Steve still has his urban sprawl concerns after hearing Patrick. Maybe Steve thinks Patrick’s vision of sustainable communities throughout Metro would be urban sprawl, but I don’t understand how anyone could think that, just as I don’t understand how Steve’s vision that eliminates ALR green space would solve urban sprawl.

If Steve worked in Downtown Richmond, his commute from South Surrey might take him to the Westmisnter Highway exit from 99 and then westward past the Garden City Lands just before the built-up bulk of the City Centre. It’s largely bog (the western end of the Lulu Island Bog), a carbon sink that was almost ripped out for big buildings. That plan was halted when citizens acted to keep it in the ALR. If someone else was his carpool driver on a day like today, Steve could look north to a great view of the mountains. Between him and that scene, Steve would see a 136-acre green space that is not farmed. The Garden City Lands are not needed for any of the 120,000 population that is the eventual goal in the City Centre Area Plan, and to me the ALR-proscribed construction on the lands would have been urban sprawl.

What the Garden City Lands can now do within the ALR is make life more livable for the people of Richmond and beyond, especially the City Centre residents. That can happen in ALR ways that improve food sustainability and enable many other benefits to the community. What Steve might see as a problem is what we see as a blessing.



  1. 1
    Steve Lornie Says:

    kewljim, (Or can a call you Jim, or James? pls let me know)

    I do not commute from South Surrey, I was merely pointing out that those who do drive Hwy 99 motor past miles of abandoned or neglected farmland, a testament to the “leapfrogging” effect of the ALR.

    I have no objection to “green space”, in fact I enjoy my morning commute from North Van thru Stanley Park. The problem I have with ALR supporters is that they fail to acknowledge that their version of “green space ” comes with some very nasty unintended consequences, and that often it is others that suffer those consequences. Those consequences include more urban sprawl, loss of blue-collar jobs, higher taxes due to agricultural subsidies, the loss of value to the farm owner, and the flight of young families to the outer fringes of suburbia due to the ALR-induced land costs.

    Regarding Patrick Condon’s vision of 4,000,000 people without the loss of ALR lands: that is mere theory, long disproved by the real hurdles of densification. Ask any developer that has tried to assemble and rezone an urban site for higher density. It takes years, requires millions of dollars in holding costs, and often ultimately fails due to community opposition. Often opposition from those that also support the ALR, wanting to have their cake and eat it too: no development on ALR land, and no development in my neighbourhood. What world does Patrick Condon live in?

    All I ask is that ALR supporters admit that their land-use choices create burdens for others, and those others are generally the less well-off. That is a hard thing to admit, and I do not expect many ALR supporters will do so.


    Steve Lornie

  2. 2
    kewljim Says:

    Re the name “kewljim”: When I asked my imaginative youngest daughter for a name for blog purposes, she jokingly dubbed me “kewljim,” so I like it as a pleasant reminder of her when she’s away on her studies.

    She may later want to buy a home in BC if she settles into a career here. Undoubtedly she would prefer to have to pay a little more if need be if that is the price for maintaining the values that include protecting farmland.

    In Richmond, the leaders of community groups that have been most active in helping keep the Garden City Lands in the ALR are also the most active in combatting poverty.

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