9360 Finn Road—farm fill bylaw passes

With about 120 citizens in attendance, Richmond passed a set of proposals about soil/fill removal and deposit. Many spoke, typically well. Most were in favour of the proposals and in favour of insisting on cleanup of the problematic Finn Road farm. Here are my speaking notes.

________

I support the recommendation about soil removal and deposit. Three related points:

First point: The Agricultural Land Commission staff are supportive too. That’s my view after communicating with compliance officer Thomas Loo at length for the past four days.

Also, the commission is supportive in a wider way. It is committed to processes to ensure that the ALC and local government are sharing all notifications and applications related to fill. That sets the stage for collaboration that gets good results quickly. For a start, Mr. Loo and I revised the notification form so that notices like the Bill Jones Nursery one will definitely have to go the local government as well as the commission in future.
(Mr. Loo will now ask the executive director to approve it.)

Second point:  To get timely results, we need to do what Councillor Harold Steves suggested at last week’s General Purposes Committee meeting. He suggested this: Richmond should ask the Agricultural Land Commission to treat the Bill Jones Nursery road fill as a NON-farm use. That is firmly in keeping with understandings that the commission’s executive director listed when he responded to the Bill Jones Nursery proposal. I annotated that letter and gave it to council last week. It’s straightforward: The proposal indicated granular fill, which pretty much means gravel. In contrast, what the dump trucks dumped on the farm and haven’t removed isn’t at all like gravel. As a NON-farm use, the Bill Jones Nursery fill will require a formal application to the commission. The City of Richmond and Farmer Ray can then provide evidence, as can Bill Jones Nursery, and the commission will decide whether the material is good for agriculture or not. That will clear the air. The recommendation before council is okay but slow-moving. The step of getting the commission to declare a NON-farm use was needed a week ago, and it’s needed now.

Third point: Some parts of the Agricultural Land Commission Act that are relevant to this agenda item are so badly written that one could drive a dump truck through the loopholes. Other parts are very clear.

The key part of ALC Act that is already very clear is Section 46, which gives local governments the authority to pass bylaws about agricultural uses.

In contrast to that, the ALR Use Regulation is confusingly convoluted in the requirements for notices and applications about fill. For now, the simple and effective way for the commission and the City of Richmond to deal with that is mutual sharing of information— along with council passing the recommendation about soil removal and deposit tonight.

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