7. Moving Ahead

 

When we hear “Garden City lands,” we picture a field east of Garden City Road near Richmond centre. Though slated for mega-density development, it’s shielded by the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and community values. What else matters? Let’s start at Earth level. 

What’s vital in life?

Philosophies vary, but this we know: people need good water, air, food, and shelter. Here in BC, we’re far from self-sustaining in food. 

Why save BC farmland?

Most food comes from Earth’s dwindling farmland, and demand for local food is rising. With California water woes and rapid loss of U.S. farmland, we’ll have to feed ourselves. 

Why support the ALR land bank?

Farmland has more short-term value for construction than for harvests. Thanks to the ALR, it won’t be gone when we need it most. 

Why keep the Garden City lands in the ALR?

It’s a personal choice: mega-density development versus stewardship of prime agricultural land. 

What can Richmond Council do?

(1) Study the Garden City lands agreements closely.

(2) Be prepared to deal from a position of strength with Canada Lands Company, as well as the Musqueam Indian Band, if Agricultural Land Commission again rejects the application to remove the Garden City Lands from the ALR.

(3) Root out attempts to buy farmers’ support for ALR removal.

(4) Rebuke members who use scare tactics on us. 

Might the Agricultural Land Commission remove the lands from the ALR?

It’s possible, although the developers got nowhere when they applied before.  

If the lands get removed from the ALR, what’s next?

There’s legal recourse if “community need” is a factor. Lawyer Deborah Curran’s 2007 legal review for Smart Growth BC shows that the commission has no authority to remove ALR land for “community need.”  However, in this case, the applicants don’t seem to be able to show any real community need in the first place.

If the purchase agreement ends, what happens?

At worst, if the city acts adeptly and everyone acts with goodwill, the parties eventually go back to their pre-agreement positions. It appears that the lands could return to the federal government unless the parties negotiate something else. Logically, they go to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, perhaps for an urban-agriculture innovation project such as the Richmond Poverty Response proposal. 

Might parties to the defunct agreement litigate?

In an open letter, one party envisaged “an army of lawyers producing large legal bills for the city and others.” That’s a factor if litigation as a business weapon flusters the city. 

Might the Musqueam get the lands in a non-treaty deal like the River Rock one?

No. The Garden City property might become property of the government of Canada again, not B.C. And the federal government is likely to heed the Auditor General’s counsel that non-treaty deals hinder the treaty process. 

Might the lands become part of a treaty settlement?

The provincial “reconciliation agreement” with the Musqueam makes that less likely. After getting non-ALR land near their southwest Vancouver reserve, they’ll have less need for land, especially ALR land, than for money. 

What if the field has to stay available for the treaty process?

For now, it could bestow food and cultivate caring. In time, it will become a birthright for all Richmond residents if our politicians stay alert and tenacious.  

Wouldn’t the field need drainage?

Yes, the Garden City lands and other agricultural areas need drainage and irrigation upgrades for sustainability. Under “2.1 Agriculture” in the Richmond Official Community Plan, our farmers are entitled to those services, which are long overdue. 

What if the lands eventually get ceded in a treaty?

Under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, they would remain protected in the ALR as long as the federal and provincial governments support that. 

Do we have any bargaining chips?

South of Triangle Road near Riverport, the city owns 20 acres of industrial land where Fraser Wharves stores cars. If land has to be traded, it could come from there. 

What if the lands get left as an open field?

We like green space, and the Garden City lands are green space—green gold in the land bank. 

A politician once said, “A billion here and there and pretty soon you start talking real money.” The Garden City lands say, “A lost community value here and there and pretty soon you start talking priceless.”

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