Langley Township Councillor Charlie Fox

Langley Township Councillor Charlie Fox

Langley Township council is creating more farmland

Councillor Charlie Fox say two land use decisions will create another 48 farmable acres in the Township.

Editor: Re: “Langley Township’s modern-day alchemy,” (The Times, June 25).

I have respected your editorials and I feel you have done an excellent job of being unbiased and thorough in your editorials in the recent past and I respect you for that. Unfortunately, this column is, in my opinion, far from the complete story which leads to a very biased and slanted outcome. What you have published today is false, misleading and biased and, yes, I choose my words carefully. Your readers deserve the facts.

You did not mention that of the three properties you referenced, two of the three applications were approved by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). It seems to be that you have an issue with the ALC support for these proposals, yet you criticize the Township of Langley.

The facts show the Tuscan Farm property was actually zoned to one-acre lots prior to the advent of the Agricultural Land Reserve. The council of many years back, prior to 1972-73, put the zoning in place, not this council. The 80 acres of then-useless land sat for decades unused and contaminated with copper wire, following its use as an antenna field.

The recent proposal puts 48 acres (not “some” as you elude to) back in to class 1 or 2 farmland. This land is now back to being farmed and functional. The remaining 32.4 acres, mostly deep ravine and gravelly hillside, will see 13 acres used to build 62 (not 85 as you state) homes, which is less than the zoning allows. There will be 19.4 acres of common property, including trails and open space.

A site visit would have shown you the land set aside for houses has very limited or no farm value (confirmed by the ALC), as it has no topsoil. The topography makes it useless to farm, except if you were to improve it through a fill site application which is not going to happen. So to summarize — 13 acres are being developed and 48 acres restored to farmland, the rest (19.4 acres) will be common property and public amenity space and parkland.

On the Wall application, the decision was to remove 66.5 acres of the 145.3 acres (not the whole property) and include it in the University District. Now that sounds like a lot, unless you mention that 53 acres are to be preserved as wetland. You forgot to mention the ALC actually supported this application (with conditions all to be met) when it came forth to remove the 13.5 acres (listed by the ALC as Class 4.5 farmland (lower capability agricultural lands with limitations to producing perennial forage crops or other specially adapted crops).

The remaining 53 ecologically sensitive acres will remain in the Township hands as a community asset. Of the remaining 78.8 acres of useable top grade farmland, not one part of it will be compromised, and by way of a covenant, it will be protected in perpetuity. You also forgot to mention the compensation paid by the proponent of a significant financial sum to support the ongoing resolution of the environmental and farm-related issues in the lower Salmon River area. So to summarize, this application will see 13.5 acres developed, 78.8 acres farmed and 53 acres preserved with a contribution of $1 million for flood control.

So totally, in the combined Tuscan and Wall applications,  prior to the application process (for the two properties) there was 78.8 acres being farmed and the rest left unused. Subsequent to the two application approvals, there is a total of 126.8 acres of high quality farmland being designated, 72.4 acres of community space for trails and natural lands (including 53 acres of wetland) and 26.5 acres developed. The figures do not lie, we have a net increase of 48 farmable acres between these two proposals. And you label this as pro-development? The naked assault referenced in the column is devoid of the facts.

The last alchemy is the property in Aldergrove. Your paper used the headline; “Aldergrove farmland eyed for townhouses” and your sister paper (Aldergrove Star) framed its headline as; “Township council approves ALR exemption.” I am shocked at the headlines, as they are a complete misrepresentation of the discussion at the council table. Council never supported or even discussed townhouses, an exemption or anything of the sort.

The area is one which has been identified as a possible growth area for decades (it is included in the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and the OCP), is one which the ALC has previously turned down for development but is one that the ALC has indicated it would consider in order to make Aldergrove a sustainable community. The motion simply asked the ALC for their position on whether it would support an exclusion application.

There is absolutely no rational reason to start the discussion about density, housing types, and a multitude of other pertinent issues taking up staff time and the proponent’s time and money if the ALC isn’t going to entertain the application. How do you know the proponent didn’t have 40, 50, or 60 acres to put back into the ALR? You don’t, so the conclusive nature of the column makes a misrepresentation of council’s decision to do due diligence.

I feel this column did not meet the standard you have attained in the recent past, with your more thorough and complete opinion pieces.

Councillor Charlie Fox,

Langley Township