Reflection 2: Agricultural vs Conservation

Supposedly, Richmond council decided the other day to change the illegal General Urban (residential) designation of the Garden City Lands in the new Metro bylaw to Conservation & Recreation.

Would Agricultural be a better designation for the Lands in the Metro bylaw? (Since the change has not actually been made, the question remains relevant.) I am one of the many people who see Agricultural as preferable. Why?

  1. KISS. For me, that common acronym means this:
    Keep it Simple. Succeed!
    With the Agricultural designation, the Garden City Lands (and DND Lands) would be zoned:
    Agricultural at the Province of BC level (ALR)
    Agricultural at the Metro Vancouver level
    Agricultural at the City of Richmond level
    It’s easier to do things simply.
  2. Provincial regulations about agricultural land are essentially higher than Metro and city ones, and in any case Metro just has very brief vision statements for the Agricultural designation (and for the Conservation & Recreation one). The consistent zoning as Agricultural will limit any confusion about what is or is not appropriate. With a Conservation & Recreation designation, the provincial agricultural law (the ALC Act) still applies, but local politicians and staff and the public would inevitably get confused. (I’ve recently seen firsthand how effectively city staff can confuse councillors about similarities and differences in land use names.) Since the ALC Act provides for conservation and open land parks (in the ALR Use Regulation), it is an ideal framework, and in any case it is required to be used for ALR lands, including the Garden City Lands.
  3. The people of Richmond do not want the city to unfairly enrich itself at the expense of the Musqueam Indian Band, and that’s doubly important when the Band is suing us for unjust enrichment. The Garden City Lands were simply Agricultural at the provincial and city levels when the Musqueam held a beneficial interest, and adding a Conservation & Recreation label at the Metro level now could give the impression that the City is trying to add a new set of uses that it didn’t make available to the Musqueam. Even though the ALC Act would continue to regulate the uses of the lands, people (including Musqueam people) could easily get the wrong impression that a whole lot of additional recreational uses somehow come into play under “Recreation” and perhaps even under “Conservation.”

A popular citizens’ vision of the lands has been as “Richmond’s Stanley Park,” and that’s the expression that the Garden City Lands Coalition has used for the Lands for years. Because we are familiar with the ALC Act and the accompanying ALR Use Regulation, we know that a “Richmond’s Stanley Park” can be well achieved under Agricultural designations. So let’s just keep it simple and succeed.

Will the opportunity to change come up? Probably. We are under no illusions that Pave Garden City people won’t try to keep the General Urban designation, which would be a change from the agreed-upon Conservation & Recreation. If the land use designation comes into play again, we might as well be ready to show why the obvious choice, Agricultural, is also the best.

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