Metro stonewalling Agricultural Land Commission

Metro Vancouver is stonewalling the Agricultural Land Commission.

I’m more sure of that after studying a chart in the January 14 agenda package that was sent to Metro Vancouver directors before today’s board meeting. The chart consists of summarized comments to the Regional Growth Strategy public hearing plus a Metro response to each comment.

From the response to a public hearing comment from Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, and a related one from the Garden City Lands Coalition Society, I can also see why few of the Metro directors would realize the extent of the problem even if they studied their 262-page package closely.

In recognizing that, I’m not excusing any of them for leaving Director Harold Steves as the single member of their group who stood up for the law of the Province of British Columbia. (Mr. Steves has been herding cattle all his life. Surely he shouldn’t have to learn to herd sheep.)

The ALC chair’s letter to the public hearing was a follow-up to a previous ALC letter in which the ALC’s executive director had clearly and explicitly pointed out the illegality—under Section 46 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act—of clearly specified content in the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw.

In this post, I will quote:

  • The Metro response to the commission and to our coalition society (identical wording, like a form letter)
  • The most relevant bits of Section 49 of the ALC Act
  • Metro’s summary of an ALC comment
  • Metro’s excerpt from our society’s main comment

I think you will quickly find it evident that Metro Vancouver, as the local government preparing the bylaw, should have ensured consistency with the ALC Act on its own initiative, especially since our coalition society had clearly informed Metro about the Richmond problems at an earlier draft stage. From a non-lawyer’s common-sense standpoint, it appears that Metro was obligated to correct the inconsistencies of the bylaw with the ALC Act after the first letter from the commission.

Instead, Metro seems to have ignored the commission’s first letter and then brushed off the second one as though the provincial tribunal is an annoying flea. Another analogy would be a kid who stays watching TV at his bedtime, says “Yes, Mom” when reminded it’s past the time to go to bed, and keeps hoping to be left alone—until Mom finally turns off the TV herself, reluctantly expresses her disappointment and perhaps a punishment, and shepherds him to his room.

It’s no secret that Metro is being bullied by some powerful municipal forces, but surely the Metro staff can do better than than they have. The Metro directors need to take responsiblity too.

Metro response to ALC and our society (identical to both):

RGS regional land use designations and Special Study Areas have been shown in the draft RGS through Metro Vancouver working directly with member municipalities. The RGS recognizes that in the case of an inconsistency between the RGS and the ALC, the ALC legislation prevails.

Excerpts from Agricultural Land Commission Act, Section 46:

(2) A local government in respect of its bylaws . . . must ensure consistency with this Act, the regulations and the orders of the commission.

(4) A local government bylaw . . . that is inconsistent with this Act, the regulations or an order of the commission has, to the extent of the inconstancy, no force or effect.

Metro summary of Agricultural Land Commission comment (provided here as context):

Mapping inconsistencies – In the City of Richmond, two parcels of ALR land totaling 112 hectares have been designated for General Urban development within the Urban Containment Boundary. Neither the ALC regulations nor any order of the Commission provides for general urban development of either parcel.

Metro excerpt from Garden City Lands Coalition Society comment (provided here as context):

We continue to urge that ALR land within Metro Vancouver be designated Agricultural, not General Urban. The Regional Growth Strategy still shows the Garden City Lands and DND Lands within the urban containment boundary and designated General Urban, which means “intended for residential neighbourhoods and centres. . .”. That area has always been in the ALR. Furthermore, the Agricultural Land Commission confirmed in 2006 and 2009 that the Garden City Lands belong in the ALR. In effect, the City appears to have directed Metro to test the resolve of the Agricultural Land Commission to enforce the ALC Act. We ask Metro to take whatever measures may be needed to bring its bylaw in line with the Act prior to the third reading.

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6 Comments »

  1. 1
    Al Says:

    QUOTE:

    ” It’s no secret that Metro is being bullied by some powerful municipal forces, but surely the Metro staff can do better than than they have. The Metro directors need to take responsiblity too.”

    Excellent bang -on summary !!!

    Unless you are a descendant of First Nations, their is a high likelihood your family or ancestors came to this country to escape a “less than democratic ” governance lifestyle in your country of origin.

    However, history has come full circle as it always does :
    Nameless and faceless entities who may never ever be identified are working behind the scenes running the ” Punch and Judy ” puppett show starring Metro Vancouver directors, who have been given almost “deity – like” powers that will relegate the average citizens to persona non- grata status.

    There is actually no certainty here which Bylaw 1136 claims to create.
    In my interpretation, ALR properties have had their existing rights expropriated for 30 years. However.this now leaves Non- ALR properties exposed to numerous changes to accomodate growth. Bylaw 1136 is quite liberal re: its flexibility for non ALR properties, so a Single Family neighbourhood could be ambushed via multi -family condo applications.

    EXAMPLE:
    Condo complex across from South Arm on South side of Williams Rd, East of Garden City, surrounded by SF homes.
    That simply required a Bylaw amendment.

    Large developers (ie hi rises)are nicely set up.
    Small Ma and Pa developers may have to lobby for SFH areas to undergo rezoning to accomodate their needs. This is exactly what happened down Williams Road.

    In fact, what may backfire, is that many SF property owners may see this guerilla attack on their SF neighbourhoods and then move to ALR properties, (which are effectively Single Family Zoned ) further drivng up ALR prices.

    Bylaw 1136 is a hideous and insidious piece of legislation.
    Like any such abomination, we , the public , still don’t know its total ramifications, but like a cancer…it will unfold and spread in an insidious way and create a lot of dissension within each Metro Vancouver City.

    This is the equivalent of legislative tasering.

    It was designed to shield each Council and give them an excuse to ” Sorry it’s out of our hands” , aka wave the white flag as they collect their $ 50,000 salaries and simply rubber stamp each development that comes their way.

    Those faceless and nameless parties that draft such legislation as Bylaw 1136 make 110% sure it is worded in such a way they can exploit the legalese to foster THEIR agenda, while the General Public is either lulled to a false sense of security or needs to get a Law degree to even get a remote handle on the direct and indirect implications of Bylaw 1136.

    Friday Jan.14, 2011 ( Bylaw 1136 passed 3rd Reading)
    Truly a sad day for democracy….remember to tell your grandchildren.

  2. 2
    Al Says:

    This explains(at least to me) more and more why the City paid an approx. 600% premium on the GCL ($60 Million ).

    The Metro RGS has been in the works for years.

    The City can be deemed as an” insider”, knowing all the Metro backroom machinations of what policies and agendas are in play. Part of the insider discussions must have been strategic mini-meetings re: inclusion of certain ALR parcels in the General Urban designation. Given they all have to maintain a position of a unified front, this strategy has been set in motion to deftly bypass the ALR with some hollow diplomacy.

    Section 46 was most certainly pre-emptively discussed behind closed doors at Metro, and their legal advisors probably felt the tactic of acknowledgement of its existence and that ALC ” is in control ” re ALR Exclusions suffices and indemnifies Metro.

    We saw the charade with the GCL, Richmond Council repeated the same 25 words or less mantra why it should be excluded :
    Its never been farmed and its dirt cheap…repeat
    Its never been farmed and its dirt cheap…repeat……

    Enter the Musqueam.
    This is the joker in the deck. Local Gov’t can be a “gov’t” but they are also allowed , under the Local Gov’t Act to incorporate and form stand alone companies. EXAMPLE Oval and ADEU.

    The UNlevel playing field I see is the city, wearing the hat of the private sector, being party to information no one else has and using it to purchase the GCL. ( This is unethical and borderline criminal in the private sector…..many insiders who abuse insider info have been fined heavily or gone to jail ).

    The Musqueam have been very quiet, why aren’t they screaming about how GCL is shaping up since Bylaw 1136 passed ? The Cities motives are very clear, their goal of a GCL ALR Exclusion is simply one Provincial edict away.

    If you read yesterday’s Vancouver Sun…..all of a sudden First Nations groups are announcing all sorts of RE ventures…hmmmmm

    Something is going on.

    Finally: The entire charade is even more amusing, given the fact that Metro endorsed a recommendation before Christmas that the ALC be strengthened with more funding. Red Herring ?

    What a bunch of hypocrites

  3. 3
    ravi Says:

    what can we do about this?

  4. 4
    Al Says:

    To Ravi and others:

    Review ” ATTACHMENT # 4 ” near the end of this document package

    http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/GVRD%20Board/GVRD_Board-January_14_2011-Agenda.pdf

    IMHO, this is the game plan for al City Councils post 3rd Reading of Bylaw 1136. ( I find it interesting it is buried in middle like meat in a sandwich , one had to stumble across it after digging through other document packages)

    QUOTED(Attachment 4) under Excerpts from

    ” Part 25 of the Local Government Act
    Division 2 — Preparation and Adoption Procedures”
    are Sections 853 to Sections 864.
    They are pretty scary reading, this like a fixed card game.

    Basically there is a 60 day meter , which apparently starts when a given Local Gov’t / Council formally receives the Metro Vancouver Bylaw 1136 as final 3rd reading approved package . Not sure when that will be,but probably soon.

    What I see this boil down to is how OUR Richmond Council chooses to deal with this. (However I am not even sure at this point if they are allowed to accept any public unput, but this does NOT stop anyone or any group from making noise/protest outside the sanctity of Council Chambers via backdoor persuasion like a good old 1960’s protest.

    Here are some EXCERPTS below:

    Acceptance by affected local governments required
    SECTION 857

    — (1) Before it is adopted, a regional growth strategy must be accepted by the affected
    local governments or, failing acceptance, become binding on the affected local
    governments under section 860 (6).

    — (2) Acceptance of a regional growth strategy by an affected local government must be
    done by resolution of the local government.

    ***** NOTE: I will pick what I think are some key nuggets and try to interpret them *********

    SECTION 857 (4)

    After receiving a proposed regional growth strategy under subsection (3), each affected local government must

    (a) review the regional growth strategy in the context of any official community plans and regional growth strategies for its jurisdiction, both those that are current and those that are in preparation, and in the context of any othermatters that affect its jurisdiction, and

    (b) subject to an extension under section 858 (3), within 60 days of receipt either

    (i) accept the regional growth strategy, or

    (ii) respond, by resolution, to the proposing board indicating that the local government refuses to accept the regional growth strategy

    TRANSLATION:

    It is my understanding that West Vancouver was granted a (2) year extension …..BUT they have NO ALR lands, hence the whole City is one big “General Urban” designation.

    Richmond , IMHO, was very pre-emptive to set up an OCP over the lst several months…….they must be drooling at to slam dunk of Bylaw 1136 “yesterday” if they could…this explains the City Center Hi -Density “ca$h – cow” re-zoning….and the fact they maintained the GCL and DND in the General Urban as an Urban land bank.

    In other words, duly note that Metro Vancouver Local Gov’ts that HAVE ALR lands probably have the most polished OCP’s because they HAD to, all other Local Gov’ts can take their sweet time.

    This was what was probably negotiated in the backrooms…
    FYI: of Metros (22) Local Gov’ts ……(9) NINE have NO ALR lands, including none on the North Shore.

    Those Local Gov’ts that did have ALR lands in their jurisdciction felt that they should be able to dip into their own ALR lands due to the NON ALR lands advantage other(9) Local Gov’ts had. The Urban(Non ALR) areas Growth strategy is far too flexible for lands deemed “General Urban”….what you see as perhaps a (3) story condo zoning could easily be changed to hi -rise…

    In fact, in today’s VANCOUVER PROVINCE, City of Vancouver is already tabling recommendations increased building heights from 182 meters to 213 meters.

    Continued…..I’ll get back to the legalese….

  5. 5
    Al Says:

    Continued……..:

    ******* NOTE: my previous and the forthcoming posts are my interpretations….debate is welcome and encouraged,…….. BUT TIME IS ALSO OF THE ESSENCE *******

    SECTION 857 “Acceptance by affected local governments required”

    (4) After receiving a proposed regional growth strategy under subsection (3), each affected local government must

    (a) review the regional growth strategy in the context of any official community plans and regional growth strategies for its jurisdiction, both those that are current and those that are in preparation, and in the context of any other matters that affect its jurisdiction, and

    (b) subject to an extension under section 858 (3), within 60 days of receipt either:
    (i) accept the regional growth strategy, or
    (ii) respond, by resolution, to the proposing board indicating that the local government refuses to accept the regional growth strategy.

    (5) An acceptance under subsection (4) (b) becomes effective

    (a) when all affected local governments have accepted the regional growth strategy, or

    (b) at the end of the period for acceptance or refusal under that subsection if, at the end of that period, all affected local governments have not accepted the regional growth strategy.

    (6) If an affected local government fails to act under subsection (4) (b) within the period for acceptance or refusal, the local government is deemed to have accepted the regional growth strategy.

    TRANSLATION at this point:

    —- Bylaw 1136 formal documentation is to be sent to each of Metros ( 22) Local Gov’ts

    —– 60 day ” Council vote by resolution” meter starts the day the given Local Gov’t receive it.

    —– The legalese implies that our Council can review it under Section 857 (4) a.

    —Under Section 857 ( 4 ) b ( i ) Council can accept it (= game over)
    OR
    —Under Section 857 ( 4 ) b ( ii) Council, by resolution,(ie formal vote )can tell Metro they REFUSE to accept BYLAW 1136

    **** Also Note….Bylaw 1136 requires ALL (22) Metro Vancouver Local Gov’ts to agree…100 % consensus. THUS, If Richmond Council FORMALLY says ” NO” via a documented resolution within the 60 day time period……..this will stop Bylaw 1136 ” temporarily ” at least ****

    However, I have duly noted a little ” dirty land mine” in the legislation as follows we should be aware of : .

    (6) If an affected local government fails to act under subsection (4) (b) within the period for acceptance or refusal, the local government is deemed to have accepted the regional growth strategy.

    TRANSLATION:
    I am curious why this Section ( 6 ) is even in there.
    My suspicion is that this was included for sheer optics, an “out” for gutless Councils. It seems to be a default mechanism. In other words, if a Council does “nothing”…votes neither “yes” or “no” in the 60 day period, then its the same as if the voted YES to approve it. This would benefit Councils that “don’t want to go on record as approving it ” …when in most governance models there must be an active YES/APPROVAL majority (via quorom) and where ” tie ” votes would also defeat the motion, ie usuall need 50% + 1.
    To be honest, I can’t say I have ever seen such a default “Yes” vote mechanism in place..

    ===============================

    Further to this, re-read Section (5) which is very similar to Section (6) ……..but just a bigger hammer to keep everyone in line in case Metro Councils actually wake up and ACTUALLY read this betrayal.

    (5) An acceptance under subsection (4) (b) becomes effective

    (a) when all affected local governments have accepted the regional growth strategy, or

    (b) at the end of the period for acceptance or refusal under that subsection if, at the end of that period, all affected local governments have not accepted the regional growth strategy.

    TRANSLATION:
    This seems to imply that AFTER 60 days , literally all of Metro Vancouver Local Gov’ts could “sit on their hands” (fear of/from mass protests in their own constituencies ? ) , do nothing, and Bylaw 1136 will STILL get rammed home .

    ALSO: Of Metros (22) Local Gov’t, (13) have ALR lands.
    Thus, if these (13) Local Gov’ts face protests, and out of fear enter “do nothing ” mode for 60+ days …..then section (5) kicks in and Bylaw 1136 still passes. This is “theoretical “, but could ACTUALLY happen, which increases my suspicion that democracy was the first thing tossed out in the original backroom dealings of Bylaw 1136.

    This again exposes the BC Gov’t is behind this Bylaw 1136, this is literal COERCION , a quasi -rigged vote….I thought that was illegal ie criminal .

    ==================================

    Thus, IMHO, our Richmond Council choices are :

    (i) Richmond Council majority ” YES ” to Bylaw 1136 = its over, done deal ….. unless another Metro Vancouver Local Govt votes ” NO “, but don’t count on it.

    (ii) Richmond Council “do nothing” aka “In Neutral” = the same as a YES VOTE to approve Bylaw 1136.

    If Council VOTES ” NO ” within the 60 days , then Section 857 Subsection (7 ) kicks in…..

    To Be Cont’d…….

  6. 6
    Al Says:

    Cont’d

    If Council VOTES ” NO ” within the 60 days , then Section 857 Subsection (7 ) kicks in…..

    =========================

    I’ll try to summarize as best I can from my own interpretation from Section 857 subsection (7) TO Section 864 :

    If Richmond Council voteds ” NO ” within the prescribed 60 day period, then it has to point out
    —–WHAT it objects to,
    —–reasons WHY it objects

    and

    (c) ” whether it is willing that a provision to which it objects be included in the regional growth strategy on the basis that the provision will not apply to its jurisdiction, as referred to in section 853 (2).”

    ***** NOTE Section (7) c . this may be the MAIN OUT Richmond Council could have to repect its own citizens wishes.************

    However, if there is no objection formally noted via Section 7 ( c) , then again it is assumed Richmond Council ACCEPTS Bylaw 1136

    =============================================

    Next:

    Section 857 (c) is much like a Frankenstein novel, introduces the creation of a ” facilitator ” which either has been pre-designated, or by the Minister (BC Gov’t)

    Now flip to Section 858 ” Resolution of anticipated objections”

    ****** NOTE: Keep in mind the pyramid of democracy. If Council say NO within 60 days….the resolution process (as outlined)concentrates the decision process into fewer hands. ************

    (2) After being notified under subsection (1), the minister must

    (a) require a non-binding resolution process to attempt to reach acceptance on the regional growth strategy, or

    (b) if satisfied that resolution using a non-binding resolution process underparagraph (a) is unlikely, direct that the regional growth strategy is to be settled under section 860.

    (2.1) If requiring a non-binding resolution process under subsection (2), the minister

    (a) at the time of requiring a non-binding resolution process, must specify a time period within which the parties must begin the resolution process, and

    (b) before or after the resolution process has begun, may specify a time periodwithin which the parties must conclude the resolution process.

    (3) The choice of non-binding resolution process is to be determined by agreement between the proposing board and the local government or governments that refused to accept the regional growth strategy but, if the minister considers that these parties will not be able to reach agreement, the minister must direct which process is to be used.

    TRANSLATION:
    Ultimately, the Provincial Minister is THE referee

    ==================================

    Then we bounce over to Section 861, “Options for settlement process” where settlement options include……..”arbitrators.”…”3 -person peer panels”….blah blah blah

    Then as the final nail in the democracy coffin, Section 864 “Requirement to adopt finalized regional growth strategy ”

    (1) If a proposed regional growth strategy has been accepted by the affected local governments or has become binding under section 860 (6), but has not been adopted by the proposing board, on the recommendation of the minister, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order, specify a time by which the board must adopt the
    regional growth strategy.

    (2) If the board does not adopt the regional growth strategy within the period specified under subsection (1), the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by order, deem the regional growth strategy to have been adopted by the board, in which case it applies as if it had been adopted by a valid bylaw of the board.

    TRANSLATION:
    The Queen’s Provincial Representative, the Lieutenant Governor , may step in and literally force the issue to adopt the Metro Vancouver RGS Bylaw 1136………again my suspicion the “fix- is -in”, the Province is ” hoping ” that enough smoke has been blown and the Metro Van board puppet show has fooled their own citizens that the process was democratic and this was …..of course…..done for everyones “best or better interests”..hence this will simply slide in UNopposed..slam dunk!!!.

    ==========================================

    PREDICTIONS:

    Metro Vancouvers board is basically populated by the better informed “alpha” type civic politicians.

    However, their membership on the Metro Board board is predicated on being elected at the civic level, which implies they are accountable to their local constituents. However, Metro Board is not accountable to each any Local Gov’t constituents..it is basically a dictatorship.

    What will likley happen is when Bylaw 1136 is formally brought to each Local Gov’t Council…the remaining Council members likely won’t have a bloody clue what they are signing …….UNLESS THE CITIZENS START STANDING UP !!!!!

    . I can see Richmond Council’s $50,0000 year bobbleheads say:

    ” Oh boy…Bylaw 1136 sounds good…..we saved “most” of the Richmond ALR (except the (2) largest parcels totalling almost 300 acres) ….we can increase density, ……import more offshore investment selling off luxury hi-rises no one lives in, ….. increase city coffers $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ …piss the money away of more “bread and circus ” events….wonder why poverty and homelessness increases, etc etc…….” but not have a clue they have literaly sold out their own citizens and lost a substantial amount of internal, hence accountable control they once had.

    Hey…..but what the heck….the majority of Council is over 60 years old…and couldn’t really give a damn for the future….the future is NOW .

    Usually such traitor-ism by elected officials to their own citizens is rewarded by the higher powers …..and Metro had a motion to increase civic terms to (4) years which Richmond Council endorsed. Hence the “bobblehead ” reward will be an extra $50,000 /year and thus if elected in Nov.2011 = $200,000 (4) year contract for each Councillor to do nothing as the re-zonings are rubber stamped. Council has even been quoted as saying they need an “extra year” to get business done……when in fact waaaay back Council terms were one year…then two year …then current 3 year terms.

    ALSO:
    If you think the ALR is safer now via Bylaw 1136 ….you are sadly mistaken….Bylaw 1136 has been exposed as an Urban land bank and this will be proven more and more as time goes on. You will see even more ‘ Garden City Lands ” as civic and metro needs arise. If you don’t see or agree, then I seriously suggest you do some serious homework.

    Anyway, I suggest that if YOU give a DAMN ….contact (bombard ) Richmond City Hall with e-mails and letters ASAP. That way you can see if they sold us out and how you can vote in Nov. 2011, as the Council bobbleheads DO seem to squirm when the pressure and the light is on them when they have to make important decisions.

    E-mail : mayorandcouncillors@richmond.ca


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