Editorial — Land use decisions should be made locally

Making good land use decisions involves detailed knowledge of the land in question — not looking at lines on a map.

Langley Township should be making land use decisions about the “university district” that has long planned for the area around Trinity Western University.

Local land use decisions should not be in the hands of Metro Vancouver’s board, period. This applies just as much to Burnaby or Richmond as it does to Langley Township. Locally-elected council members should be making land use decisions. It’s called accountability.

It is possible that this tussle between the two governments may end up in court.

Making good decisions involves detailed knowledge of the land in question. All Metro Vancouver board members can see is that the land adjacent to Trinity is in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Even though the Land Commission has approved use of a portion of the land for the university district, the ALR designation is a red flag to the urban mayors and councillors who know and care little about Langley.

Nonetheless, the ALC in recent years has been too quick to approve non-farm uses on land within Langley. While it is true that land prices are very high and there is a demand for urban and country estate lots, these should go on non-ALR lands.

The proposal for the former Tuscan Farms property is a case in point. While the land is zoned one acre residential, that zoning was put in place before the ALR existed.

A portion of that land may be suitable for housing, and a water line will be nearby. However, most of it is good farm land and should stay that way.

The ALC has also agreed to a housing development in the midst of the former Austin Taylor farm on 72 Avenue, not far from TWU. This is one of the best pieces of farmland in Langley, part of the historic Hudson’s Bay Farm. While a small portion of the land drops off to the Salmon River, almost all the rest of it is fully capable of being used for farming.

Langley Township council and the land commission need to say “no” io these types of proposals. Urban development belongs in urban areas. Lots of one acre or more are fine, but they should be located on land that is not suitable for farming — and there needs to be water and sewer services.

Nonetheless, this discussion needs to be held in Langley, and not debated at the Metro Vancouver board table, where this community will never get a fair shake.

Metro Vancouver should back off and leave this matter up to the Township.