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qathet Regional District supports Nassichuk Road subdivision

Directors vote in favour of supporting Agricultural Land Commission application
IN OPPOSITION: qathet Regional District Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne was against a subdivision application for a property on Nassichuk Road in Electoral Area C, citing the probability of the Agricultural Land Commission supporting the application is unlikely.

qathet Regional District (qRD) directors support subdivision of a property in Electoral Area C situated in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

At the March 22 regional board meeting, directors considered an application to subdivide a 17.2 hectare parcel of land at 10084 Nassichuk Road, near the Kelly Creek area. According to a staff report, current farm uses include blueberry and strawberry fields, strawberry greenhouses, as well as grading, packaging and shipping berries grown on the farm.

The submission to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) proposes subdivision of the property into 4.3 hectare, 9.7 hectare and 3.2 hectare parcels.

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne was opposed to the subdivision. He said he brought up points when the subdivision was reviewed previously at a qRD planning committee meeting, indicating the ALC will most likely turn down the application.

Gisborne said there were two principles to consider – respect and reputation. At a meeting of qRD’s agricultural advisory committee in February, a motion was passed that the committee recommend to the board that qRD denies the application, he added.

“One of our committees passed a resolution to recommend to the board,” said Gisborne. “Our standard practice is to have such resolutions brought to the board and to be placed on the agenda, and yet, such a motion has not been placed on the agenda. The staff recommendation put before the planning committee was to approve the application and the majority of the directors at the planning committee supported the staff recommendation.

“The one committee of our community experts have looked at the application and unanimously recommended to the board to reject the application.”

He said the planning committee met and recommended the opposite.

“I find this to be disrespectful of our agricultural advisory committee,” said Gisborne.

He said his second point is reputation. The ALC has urged local governments to avoid making decisions and to not forward applications the ALC would not endorse, he added.

“I believe the regional district is risking its credibility in forwarding this application to the ALC,” said Gisborne. “I strongly encourage members of the planning committee to vote down this motion.”

Directors in support

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said she supported the application, even though it is a subdivision in the ALR. She said there will be no loss of agricultural land.

“Because of that, I do support the recommendation,” said McCormick.

Electoral Area C director and board chair Clay Brander said he means no disrespect to qRD’s agriculture advisory committee but the board has to look at the information using a different lens.

“We have different priorities,” said Brander. “We have to see how it fits in the official community plan and in this particular case, it is being used for agricultural purposes and we’d like to continue seeing it being used for agricultural purposes.”

Brander said it is not the regional district’s job to do the ALC’s job.

Manager of planning services Laura Roddan said staff made a recommendation for supporting the application based on the Area C official community plan. She said the bylaw supports subdivision of agricultural land to a minimum parcel size of two hectares.

“Staff have recommended support because the lot sizes meet the two-hectare minimum,” said Roddan. “The existing and proposed use is agricultural, and the proposal is to retain, protect and enhance the existing farm operations.

“I realize the advisory committee’s recommendation was to deny the application. I was at the meeting and provided technical support for that committee. It is important that the board remember that in each of our official community plan processes, there has always been contradiction around whether to support subdivision in the ALR. In the past, the board has received many delegations from people wanting to see smaller parcel sizes, and young people wanting to get into farming. Affordability of the land and the minimal parcel sizes would allow for those smaller parcels.”

Gisborne quoted the official community plan policy, which he said states: the regional district supports the retention and enhancement of all land with agricultural capability, encourages the consolidation of smaller parcels of agricultural land into larger, more viable agricultural units, and encourages the retention of the landbase with existing farm operations.

“This application takes a large chunk of land and splits it into smaller parcels,” added Gisborne.

Three of the four planning committee members of the board voted in favour of the recommendation, with Gisborne opposed.