Bellwether ALC decisions

The Agricultural Land Commission made three recent decisions that suggest where the ALC and ALR are heading under Richard Bullock as chair and CEO:

They were all ALR-exclusion applications, and all were watched because of BC-wide significance, since they would indicate whether the commission under the new chair’s leadership would tacitly accept the unlevel playing field that has favoured exclusion applicants or be more balanced in its role of protecting agricultural land.

The three applications also had this in common:

  • Richard Bullock participating on the decision-making panel
  • Firm ALC critiquing of weak arguments advanced by strong parties, even “Pacific Gateway Program, Translink, Township of Langley”
  • Not approved

Here are points in the particular decisions that I see as encouraging even though one might see them simply as examples of ALC panels doing what they’re supposed to do:

  • In the Maple Ridge decision, when the applicants wanted to use a large part of the property as industrial land, the ALC panel recognized that the supposed need could (and should) be met with industrial land that is already available there.
  • In the Township of Langley case, the ALC allowed local farmers and public to provide input in meetings with the commission (not just via written submissions) and then identified that the proposal had not sufficiently mitigated the impacts on agriculture, in effect agreeing with the farmers and public.
  • In the Port Alberni decision, one factor the ALC panel apparently gave weight to was that the city had not acted on its undertaking to use the property in particular agricultural ways when adjacent land was removed from the ALR for a shopping mall.

As well, the Maple Ridge decision included a statement that captures an approach that ALR supporters around the province have picked up when interacting with ALC chair/CEO Richard Bullock:

The Commission has, of necessity, adopted a long term approach to the issue of preservation of agricultural land. The consideration involved in reviewing applications is, of necessity, more oriented towards maintaining a permanent farmland reserve without strict regard to present use or production needs. As such, agricultural land is not defined on the basis of present use, market conditions, [or] proximity to transportation routes or consumer markets. If the Commission were to exclude properties based on commodity cycle, market conditions, or economic hardship, eventually the supply of agricultural land would be diminished. If the ALR is to be maintained in the long term, it must be valued as agricultural land and cannot be endlessly eroded to make room for other uses.

That comes close to capturing the original spirit of the Agricultural Land Reserve. The return to the basics reflected in the above statement and the three bellwether decisions is good news for those who are committed to the conservation, restoration, and appropriate use of the Garden City Lands.

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This post builds particularly on these previous posts on this blog:

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