The Pitt Polder Preservation Society is concerned about an application that will be forwarded by Pitt Meadows council to the Agricultural Land Commission requesting the removal of 32.5 hectares of prime farm land in Pitt Meadows from the Agricultural Land Reserve, bringing the agricultural land slated for commercial development north of the Lougheed Highway to a total of 50.9 hectares.
A public hearing regarding the exclusion of land in the special study area will be held in Pitt Meadows council chambers on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.
You may also email mayor and council with your concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org or send letters to: Pitt Meadows Council, 12007 Harris Road, Pitt Meadows, V3Y 2B5.
Following is an outline of farmland removal in Pitt Meadows.
Prior to 2004, commercial development on the north side of the Lougheed Highway was confined to a 200-foot strip of land which was widened to 600 feet, and then in 2004 the Agricultural Land Commission gave its permission to increase the band to 700 feet. In the 2007 Pitt Meadows Official Community Plan the North Lougheed Connector cutting across the farmland between Old Dewdney and the Lougheed Highway appeared as a “concept.” Then we began to hear an increasingly insistent lament from council that the farmers needed this second road so they could more readily “access” their fields. Had access to farmer’s fields and preserving farmland ever been the issue, however, Pitt Meadows would have sought ways to alleviate traffic problems along Old Dewdney without removing farmland from the reserve: stop signs, traffic slowing devises, etc.
We suggested that it would be logical to wait to determine how a new toll on the Port Mann Bridge might affect traffic flow headed to Surrey and locations to the south and west.
Suggestions were ignored. We believe that if both bridges were tolled, the Golden Ears would become the more logical bridge to use, which would cut down traffic on Old Dewdney.
We would also like to point out that the North Lougheed Connector would ultimately have to reconnect with the Lougheed at Harris Road, which would require an expensive overpass. Traffic, however, would continue to bottleneck here and at the Pitt River Bridge (Kennedy Road).
During the planning process for the new Metro Vancouver Plan, Pitt Meadows lobbied to have the land in question designated as “general urban” - without any public consultation - and when the new Metro Vancouver Plan was ratified in July 2011, the land here was designated as a “special study area.” This would allow the City of Pitt Meadows to plan uses for the land other than agricultural.
In 2007 Pitt Meadows approached the ALC with a request to build the North Lougheed Connector, insisting that the purpose of the road was to benefit farmers along Old Dewdney. In 2010 the connector was granted on the condition that covenants would be placed on adjacent lands to ensure that they would remain in the ALR; the road was to be built within three years to curtail land speculation.
Council hired AEOCOM Consultants to suggest development options for the land in the special study area.
Although the public - when presented with three options, chose the one that would preserve the most farmland, (none of the options included ‘No development’) - council chose to develop the entire site, as this was the only choice that might cover the costs for the building of the road, a road which was in fact needed to access a shopping mall on the site. In retrospect, it has been interesting how dialogue has changed over time. The present mayor now states that development is needed to “create jobs close to home... and have a balanced tax base.” We would like to point out that jobs created in the new commercial zone might not in fact provide employment for local people but bring more people into the area, which will in turn increase the demand for development. We also question the kind of jobs that would be created, and if the wages offered by a mall could possibly justify the alienation of some of the best farmland in Canada. We might also add that there is no shortage of malls in our area.
Farmland has not been valued in Pitt Meadows. In south Pitt Meadows land was removed to build Bonson’s Landing, Cardiff Farm was removed, the commercial strip north of the Lougheed kept creeping into farmland.
If this trend is not stopped, we know speculation of farmland in Pitt Meadows will continue and the next familiar complaint will come from farmers and speculators claiming that farming the narrow strip of land between Old Dewdney and the North Lougheed Connector is not viable. Meanwhile, in Maple Ridge, the Pelton land lies idle. In time a second application will come from this area and any precedent set in Pitt Meadows will make it increasingly difficult to stem the tide of development applications that will erupt in Maple Ridge and in Pitt Meadows.
In the face of climate change, drought in the United States, crop failures in other parts of the world, and the increased cost of imported food, the importance of preserving our farmland becomes abundantly clear.
Diana Williams, Pitt Polder Preservation Society