The following report was submitted to Powell River Mayor and Council by Jason Gow, Senior Planner for the City of Powell River, concerning the Public Information Meeting for ALR Exclusion Application. This report is on Council’s agenda for Tuesday, May 17th, starting at 3:30 pm at City Hall.
On April 27, 2016, the City hosted a Public Information Meeting regarding an application it received from PRSC Land Development Ltd. (PRSC) to exclude some of their property from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The property in question is the vacant parcel that lies south of Brooks High School and fronts Marine Avenue on the east side of the road. It is legally described as Lot A, District Lot 450 Group 1 NWD Plan BCP23887. Except Part Subdivided by Plan BCP42255 (PID 026-685-591). The full parcel measures 53.7 hectares with approximately 47 hectares designated as ALR. The applicant has applied to exclude the 12.1 hectare portion of the property adjacent to Brooks bounded by the haul road from the ALR.
The Public Information Meeting was held in the Cedar Room of the Recreation Complex form 7:00 pm to approximately 9:00 pm. The meeting was advertised in the Powell River Peak on April 15 and 22 and on the City’s website. Excluding City Councillors, City staff and those representing the proponent, approximately 45 people were in attendance. The meeting began with an introduction by City staff and was followed by a presentation by the proponent. The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to hearing any questions, comments or concerns held by those in attendance.
Thirteen different speakers offered their comments with regards to the application. Nine of these expressed their concern and opposition towards removing the land from the ALR, two were in favour of the application and two were unclear about their position. Throughout this process, City staff or the proponent responded to the questions raised when possible. the following summarizes the general themes raised by the speakers:
- the forest will be lost, it is heavily used by the public – huge loss to the community;
- how the proposed exclusion is not in keeping with the ALR purpose and legislation – Section 6 of the ALC Act;
- keep the forest or replace land excluded with agricultural land somewhere else – would there be any say as to buffers on private land;
- the ALC’s role is to protect agricultural land – ALC has not been doing their job;
- is this land good agricultural land?
- it is not good farmland but there is a great forest there – doesn’t want the school there, suggested the former golf course property;
- there are various types of farming – the ALR is under threat in the Province and we need to protect agricultural land – farming in BC is growing;
- no land should come out of the ALR – in the 1990s a large section in Powell River came of of the ALR – price of food is rising;
- very unclear process lacking transparency – do not support building private school for the wealthy on ALR;
- is there any guarantee that the remaining ALR land in the subject property will stay ALR;
- in favour of the exclusion but the City doesn’t do enough to encourage agricultural development as a whole;
- would there be adequate services for the development/
In response to a question about the suitability of the soils on the land under application for agriculture, a representative of the proponent spoke briefly about the report prepared for PRSC by Madrone Environmental Services Ltd., that addresses the land capability and soil assessment. Additional points made by the proponent’s representatives in response to other questions were:
- Island Timberlands has the rights to the trees – the trees will come down;
- this property is for sale – this proposal is a good fit for being adjacent to Brooks and if this doesn’t happen, the next proposal may not be a good fit.
Following the meeting, attendees were given an opportunity to fill out a comment form supplied by the City. On the form, attendees were asked what part of the region they live in and whether they are in favour of the application. A section was also provided where additional comments could be recorded. Twenty-six responses were received. Of these, 23 respondents reported being residents of the City and the other three were from the surrounding electoral areas. Six respondents marked that they were in favour of the application, sixteen marked that they were not and the remaining did not mark their forms either in favour or not. Common themes drawn from the additional comments provided are listed below:
- no land should be removed from the ALR as it is a finite resource – Powell River has third-highest removal rate in province;
- no net loss of ALR – land swap good solution;
- there is other non-ALR property in close vicinity to Brooks that would be better suited such as the old golf course lands;
- the development of a school will provide jobs;
- the trees will be gone whether the proposal goes ahead or not;
- the land under proposal is not good arable farmland and a school will be a better use;
- residents of Powell River are not informed enough to fully appreciate the implications of this proposal;
- has the applicant considered the infrastructure required for servicing and providing access to this parcel?
- China’s human rights record;
- distrust in City processes, City is a partner in this – conflict of interest;
- more difficult to sell if whole parcel remains in the ALR and hopefully this will stall Island Timberlands from the eventual tree harvest;
- keep the community green;
- private business in ALR?
- not going to be paying taxes as private schools now exempt;
- will cause strain on infrastructure that is not yet in place;
- run-off created when cleared;
- that amount of students and teachers will impact our highway;
- how does this conform to Sustainability Charter?
- just because soil capability is poor does not mean it can’t be farmed.
After the meeting, a number of attendees gathered in smaller groups to discuss the proposal further. City staff and representatives for the proponent were on hand to provide clarification about the application where possible.
Respectfully submitted, Jason Gow, Senior Planner.