ALR subdivision nixed

Councillor Steve Ferguson called for a review of the Rural Plan at Township council on Monday.

In 1993, Langley Township adopted the Rural Plan. It was considered a breakthrough document because, compared to other land use plans, the Rural Plan was far more responsive to agricultural issues.

It was considered extremely innovative because its goals and objectives were far more comprehensive than any other official planning document applied to the Agricultural Land Reserve up to that time.

Its primary goal, the document noted, “is to enhance agricultural viability through protection of agricultural land, preservation of larger lot sizes and creation of policies to encourage the agricultural industry.”

Councillor Steve Ferguson was a member of council when the Rural Plan was adopted, and on Monday he called for its review.

His comment centered on an application from Arnold and Joan Turner to divide 24.29 acres at 22483 96 Ave. into five lots ranging in size from 4.2 acres to 7.49 acres.

“I was one of the architects of the Rural Plan,” Ferguson said, acknowledging that “it is not without its flaws.”

He said he was concerned about breaking up the land into five parcels, and wanted the issue and council’s policy, as laid out in the Rural Plan, referred to the municipality’s Agricultural Advisory Committee.

Administrator Mark Bakken questioned the wisdom of a council referring to the committee an item of established council policy and bylaw, to which Ferguson responded by saying that  “the time has come for us to review the Rural Plan.”

The motion to send the application to the ALC died on a tie vote, with Ferguson and Councillors Michelle Sparrow, David Davis and Kim Richter opposed.

Mayor Jack Froese and Councillors Charlie Fox, Bob Long and Bev Dornan supported it. Grant Ward, a generally pro-development councillor, was absent.

The application requires Agricultural Land Commission approval.

Based on the fact that the request complies with the minimum lot size requirements of the Small Farms/Country Estates designation in the Rural Plan and the Township Zoning Bylaw, staff recommended support for breaking up the land.

Councillor Bob Long agreed that it was inappropriate to pass the issue to the committee, but Richter said that by passing the application on to the ALC, it suggests that council supports it.

Staff recommended that council back the application to the ALC on the grounds that it complied not only with ALR requirements, but also the Township’s Rural Plan and zoning bylaw.

An earlier application was turned down, Councillor Bev Dornan noted, adding that “the ALC can make its own decision if it wants it subdivided or not.”

The ALC denied the application in 2008 because it was inconsistent with its objective of preserving agricultural land.

A supporting letter from Bell & Giuriato, engineers and planners, said that the Turners had searched for available agricultural use for their property since they bought it in 2004.

“They ran a small equestrian operation for a while but it was found to be unfeasible due to the challenging topography, predominant wetlands and high cost/low return of the equestrian industry in general,” Glenn Bell wrote.

The Turners investigated other possibilities, including a farmers’ market, greenhouses, fur farm and kennels, all of which did not comply with the ALR or the Rural Plan.

For the past 40 years, Bell said, the farm has been used for grazing and as a hayfield.