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Volume Ten, Number One   January 2005

Removing Abbotsford farmland from Land Reserve mistaken

CPP News

“The ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) is not meant as a reserve to compensate for poor land-use planning,” said SPEC Director Carole Christopher.  “If land is taken out of the ALR and used for development, there is no incentive for smart growth. Giving agricultural land over to development invites poor land-use decisions and very shortly will re-create the same need for more exclusions on a grander scale. “
Christopher’s comments are part of a SPEC submission to ALR head Kirk Miller who is overseeing an application by the City of Abbottsford to remove 900 acres of prime farmland from the ALR over the next two decades, and use it for  industrial development.

The parcels under consideration in the current application include Class 1 land; almost all of it prime farmland.   The general region around Abbotsford is  special in its soil conditions and  provide excellent drainage and good topsoil.  It is one of the three best areas for growing raspberries in the world.  As well, these soils are suitable for growing a wide range of crops with high production levels.
According to a study by SmartGrowth BC, only 17 per cent of industrial floor space  in Abbotsford is currently being used. By comparison the average of industrial use in the GVRD is 50 per cent. If Abbotsford approached the levels of use in the GVRD, it could almost trip[le its industrial lands w9ithout removing more farmland from the ALR.

The ALR was formed in 1973 to preserve scarce agricultural land in BC. Since then it has become a model for other jurisdictions. But it has also come under intense pressure from developers and municipalities eager to expand their residential and industrial base. While Abbottsford farm land  fetches about  $25,0000 per  acre,  a landowner could  sell the same piece for up to $300,000 as an industrial site.
“It was a wise decision to put land aside in the ALR,” said Christopher. “ Given the potential for food insecurity in the future, the ALR is a precious reserve and the precautionary principle should be first and foremost in the minds of commissioners.”

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