Council voted 4-3 in favour of sending a land exclusion application north of Lougheed Highway to the Agricultural Land Commission.
Pitt Meadows council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to ask the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to remove more land from the agricultural land reserve on Lougheed Highway for commercial development.
Presented with three options, the decision was to ask the ALC to remove 32.9 hectares of agricultural land from the agricultural land reserve (ALR), which could then be joined with other land, 51 hectares of land north of Lougheed Highway available for retail, commercial, and mixed employment uses.
Councillors Janis Elkerton, Bruce Bell, and David Murray voted against sending the application to the ALC.
The proposed concepts were developed by a consultant with feedbakc from council, the public, and stakeholders.
The other two options presented to council included some agricultural components, but the option they chose came with a commitment by the mall developer that owns part of the land to build the North Lougheed Connector, according to Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters.
Walters said she voted to have the third option sent to the land commission for three reasons: to balance the tax base, to help build the North Lougheed Connector, and to ensure future jobs so that residents can work close to home.
“Most people in Pitt Meadows want jobs close to home but they do want to protect farmland,” Walters said.
This would hopefully include “quality jobs,” she added, for example, professional buildings with doctors, dentists, lawyers, and perhaps educational facilities.
“It’s got a lot of design uses, so there’s a lot of options,” Walters said.
In addition, Pitt Meadows has to “think regionally,” Walters said, and with more development in the east, traffic coming through Pitt Meadows needs to be accommodated.
Building the North Lougheed Connector, which would connect Abernethy Way to Lougheed just west of Harris Road, would take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road, where farmers are having problems moving their agricultural equipment, Walters said.
Council met with the land commission in February, and Walters said she felt the commission was happy with how farmland is being protected in the City of Pitt Meadows.
“We felt good leaving [the meeting] that we were doing good things [for farming],” Walters said.
However, comments received from the ALC about the land use study – which took almost a year for council to receive – were “very vague” on the possibility of a land exclusion. Council was hoping they would lean one way or the other, Walters said.
If the land is excluded from the ALR and it is developed along with the road being built, it will be the hard line between urban and agricultural land, Walters said.
Coun. Elkerton said she voted against the exclusion application because she doesn’t believe the road will fix the traffic problems farmers are experiencing on Old Dewdney Trunk Road.
“Even with the road, I think it’s moving the congestion point down the highway,” Elkerton said, adding that the exclusion would be “cutting up farmland for no reason.”
The previous time land was removed from the ALR in that area, council said that was the last time, Elkerton said, and if this portion of land is excluded from the ALR, there will be pressure to remove more from the other side of the road.
Elkerton said she was also concerned that because the report to council said buildout of the area would take about 10 years, it would take that long to collect the money to build the road.
She would rather a business park be built on the land already excluded from the ALR and the development cost charges that are collected be used to improved the intersection at Harris Road and Lougheed Highway.