Metro Vancouver pushed into fight with ALC

Update, January 14, 2010. The Metro Vancouver directors passed the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw. To deal with the parts that are inconsistent with the Agricultural Commission Act, ALC chair Richard Bullock will need to be as principled, capable, and determined as he appears to be, and he will need provincial government support. It is a huge challenge, but the long-term benefit for British Columbia will be immense when he succeeds.

 Before the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy goes to a bylaw vote, a mess needs to be cleaned up first. It’s about Metro zoning, which Metro calls “land use designation.”

On October 20, 2010, the Agricultural Land Commission informed Metro Vancouver that the Regional Growth Strategy is not consistent with B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission Act. The problem is that the Urban Containment Boundary in the document includes the ALR Garden City Lands and ALR Department of National Defence Lands (DND Lands) in Richmond along with other ALR land in the Township of Langley.

The Richmond area is a mile long and half a mile wide. Even though it is ALR land, the Regional Growth Strategy designates it “General Urban.” That means residential neighborhoods and urban centres.

In the  October 20 letter to Metro Vancouver, executive director Brian Underhill makes clear that the Regional Growth Strategy, if passed, will be of no force or effect where it is inconsistent with the ALC Act. The letter refers to Section 46, where the precedence of the act is clear. ALC chair Richard Bullock reiterated the message in a November 23 letter to Metro.

Metro Vancouver’s maps reflect the land designations provided by the member municipalities. It is not the Metro planning staff who want those large areas of Agricultural Land Reserve to be shown with incompatible uses.

The problems have not been corrected in the bylaw version of the Regional Growth Strategy. Two municipalities have put Metro Vancouver staff in the unfair position of having to advise the Metro board to legislate in a way that flouts the provincial act.

The conduct makes a farce out of Regional Growth Strategy 2.3, “Protect the supply of agricultural land and promote agricultural viability with an emphasis on food production.”  A provincial tribunal is being treated in an unseemly way. The law is being defied.

There must be responsible people on the Metro staff and board who can clean up this mess. The Regional Growth Strategy should not go to the bylaw vote until it has been brought into compliance with the Agricultural Land Commission Act.



  1. 1
    Al Says:

    We are all being played for fools;

    I submit that the ALC is toothless on this matter re GCL and DND lands.

    IMHO, the evidence strongly suggests that the GCL and DND will be removed from the ALR by a Provincial edict. (My guess is before Easter).

    Bylaw 1136 is simply the Metro Vancouver mafia cutting up turf. The City of Richmond has run out of options re GCL Exclusion ie (i)original exclusion then )ii) an “appeal”. Review of past ALC decisions will show this, as the ALC rarely if ever even looks at an application after the first appeal.(ie 2nd attempt)

    The City is losing approx. $2 Million in interest and property taxes ANNUALLY by purchasing the GCL lands for $60 Million. This will soon become known when people start to look at this with much farther scrutiny. The only exit strategy is a Provincial override .

    If the DND lands were privately owned they would NOT be given General Urban designation.

    The fix is in folks….

  2. 2
    Al Says:

    Bylaw 1136 is effectively turning Metro Vancouver into a Mega City, and our own Local Gov’t (Richmond) will have surrendered much of its autonomy. From what I understand, this RGS initiative was brought forward by the Provincial Gov’t.(Google “Elizabeth Murphy”….. ex COV Planner, ….she explains what is going on very well in a series of Georgia Straight articles)

    If one reviews Bylaw 1136, lands NOT in the General Urban designation require 2/3 Metro Vote and a regional public hearing . That is why the GCL and DND are deemed ” General Urban ” even if they are in the ALR , they have a much lower benchmark to move directly to Urban Use. The ALC has sent (2) letters “scolding” Metro Vancouver, which is the ALC’s “job”. Concurrently the previous right to apply for ALR Exclusion to one’s own Local Gov’t is now usurped by Metro Vancouver, (9 ) of whose members have NO ALR land.

    If Metro Vancouver didn’t heed the ALC’s advice in Oct, 2010….nor in Nov 2010 , it won’t care NOW, as I don’t see any amendments on Bylaw 1136 3rd reading which occurred today Jan.14, 2011. The fix is in…they all know something we don’t yet. Given the Province’s hands are all over this RGS, why wouldn’t the Province override the ALC and exclude those ALR parcels given General Urban designation, the agenda fits like a glove.

    If one digs even further, one will see that the REAL agenda is Local Gov’ts have become addicted to Real Estate Development as a means to fund their coffers. The higher the density, the higher the Local Gov’t profit….in Richmond’s case, the greatest revenue generators are 16 storey hi -rises.The DCC’s total over $1 Milion +, then there are the building permits, property taxes in perpetuity, etc. etc.

    Developers are running out of land for hi density. Talk to anyone in the development community and the ” Ten Year ” plan is common terminology. Bylaw 1136 has little if anything to do with Single Family housing. It is trying to cater to the development community to address this hi -density land shortage. This results in higher property taxes and “coincidentally”forces out local businesses, leaving the land primed for the large development companies thanks to Bylaw 1136.

    However, they don’t realize(or don’t care) they are creating “ghost cities”(Google that term), units sold to offshore interests that sit empty. Local Gov’ts have realized that they are in a Win – Win situation, as if the Real Estate market tanks they can simply adjust the mill rates to achieve the same revenue.

    Translink is the devil in these details. Translink is a pied piper that will snake its way through Metro and effectively plan each City. Duly note the displacement will kill off Industrial/Light Commercial areas so as to avoid NIMBYism and hence allow Hi Density. Cities along the Evergreen line are already drooling at the Hi Density gravy train that will come their way. Look at Richmond……all the businesses forced out in the Alderbridge Minoru area…all zoned for Hi Density, forcing us to go elsewhere. If Revy goes, what are the options….Home Depot or Rod’s in Steveston ?

    It’s high time the citizens of Richmond start to wake up that our (9) member Council is run by (2) Alpha types that have (7) bobble heads that simply go with the flow ” if it sounds good it must be good ” etc.

    The whole agenda re: Bylaw 1136 is an abomination of local accountability, due process and overall democracy. Your Vote increasingly means nothing.

    As Dr. Neimoller stated or implied….” Who’s next ” ?

  3. 3
    Al Says:

    From a blog site:


    ” Lynn Hsu owns Macdonald Realty Group, home base to Manyee Lui and almost a thousand other agents; since buying a single office in 1990, Hsu has turned the company into Western Canada’s largest realty operation, and she is well aware that Vancouver is vulnerable to changes in Asian investment and immigration. After 1996, when immigrants from Hong Kong stopped arriving and many in fact returned to Asia, real estate swooned, reviving only around 2002, when economic conditions improved and immigration from mainland China began to surge. Hsu says there is little agreement about what would happen to the market if China itself experienced a real estate meltdown of some sort. “One view is that it may have a negative effect,” due to the depletion of fortunes built on real estate and development (the primary contributor of wealthy migrants, alongside manufacturing and mining, she says). “But the other view,” she says, “is that Vancouver will look more appealing as people look for ways to get their money out of China.”

    Hsu cites another factor that has the real estate industry on tenterhooks: the imminent doubling of requirements for investor and entrepreneur immigrant programs, raising minimum net worth to $1.6 million and minimum investment to $800,000. What will this change do to the supply of wealthy immigrants? “That’s the question everyone is asking,” says Steven Meurrens, the immigration lawyer.

    Some 80% of immigrant investors are from Asia; at Immigration Canada offices in cities such as Beijing and Hong Kong, there are three-year backlogs of applicants who qualify under the old rules. Thus it will likely be years before the number of people arriving under the investor program dwindles. And as long as wealthy immigrants continue to arrive, pretty much everyone believes they’ll continue to buy homes here, rather than, say, invest in American cities where property is now much cheaper. “They’re here, not there,” says Hsu flatly. “They need a place to live.”


    What this article implies is that there is still lots of pent up demand to purchase Metro Vancouver Real Estate holdings by offshore investors

    The Regional Growth Strategy Bylaw 1136 is simply a draconian mechanism to force the hi-density issue so that local citizens within each Metro Vancouver community cannot delay the process and fight individual OCP’s.

    A-N-Y delay in accomodating this pent up demand from offshore sources is risky business for Local Gov’ts, they loath the thought things could turn economically and they lose the revenue these offhsore investors would have otherwise brought. I am quite sure the large developers community has had meetings with the Province so this issue can be expedited by force , certainly not by any grassroots input .

    I hope this helps others see the real picture even more.

  4. 4
    April Says:

    Wow. We have really turned the wrong corner. I see no other way than a class action suit. This does nothing to protect public interest.

    While it is one thing to look at the demand for housing, it is another when you understand our food system. They go hand-in-hand with each other, and being blind to where your food comes from will one day turn around and bite everyone in the cities in the proverbial butt.

    It’s not worth posting why or how that will eventually happen: only that it will. Anyone that’s remotely interested in knowing about their food beyond the doors of Safeway will do the due diligence on their own and connect the dots. As someone that grows food, I see it coming. While it’s sad to think of how so few will be able to eat well soon, I ring my hands to think of getting $5 for a single tomato from those with enough cash to eat properly.

    That for me is what this is all about.

  5. 5
    Al Says:

    Have a look at this link:

    Review pg 1 of ” ATTACHMENT # 1 ”

    Observe the ALC’s many comments and Metro Vancouver’s responses are of (2) generic varieties.

    The General Urban designations have NOT changed ie Richmond’s GCL and DND Lands are still deemed General Urban (see MAP 12 of link below )

    In essence, Metro Vancouver is blatantly ignoring the ALC as I stated earlier , ……the ALC is a toothless “barking” watchdog re: Bylaw 1136.

    The RGS is a creature of the Provincial Gov’t, which is the ultimate master of the ALC . Connect the dots to conclude a Provincial edict to override the ALC to exclude those ALR lands in the General Urban designation.

    Re : support for agriculture ? !:

    There was a recent article in the Delta Optimist re the plight of their local farmers who lost crops this fall due to flooding.
    Their bills are due(seeds and fertilizer etc. ), yet nothing on the horizon for assistance from the Province.

    Further to this, if all such affected farmers have NO ” primary agricultural production ” to submit to BC Assessment to achieve Farm Status by Oct.21 2011, they will also be hit with huge property assessments next year and hence huge property tax increases. Duly note the many large farms ” For Sale ” if you drive between Richmond and White Rock.

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