Murrayville subdivision within ALR gets go-ahead

A majority vote of Township council has moved another piece of Langley agricultural land closer to urbanization.

On May 30, council voted 8-1 to give first and second reading to an application to rezone 11.02 acres for the development of 21 houses.

The land consists of three properties at 4386 - 216 St., and 21696 and 21846 - 44 Ave. The owners’ application to exclude the land from the Agricultural Land Reserve was rejected, but the Agricultural Land Commission agreed to subdividing it.

This will require rezoning and an amendment to the Township’s Rural Plan, triggering a public hearing. A date has not yet been set.

The ALC concluded in March, 2010 that the land “has agricultural capability” and is appropriately designated in the ALR. But it also wrote that the property is “not very suitable for agricultural use.”

The commission refused to exclude the land from the reserve, in part to avoid conflict with the Regional Growth Strategy currently being finalized by Metro Vancouver, and to avoid creating expectations in the rest of the area designated Small Farms/Country Estates without ALC endorsement.

At a 2009 public input meeting, resident David Woolley said that the current 4.2 acre zoning allows people to have a small farm while preserving the wooded area, habitat for coyotes and deer.

But Alan Hendricks, one of the owners, argued at the time that the dimensions of the property, its long frontage of 2,100 feet and its narrow depth 179 feet, put serious constraint on agricultural use. He said that farm uses are not compatible “with a nice residential neighbourhood across the street.”

A report presented to council on May 30 said that the proposed development would provide a buffer between the urban area of Murrayville and the abutting ALR, a buffer which is currently woodland.

Councillor Mel Kositsky was the only one to vote against the rezoning bylaw’s first two readings.

“This is setting a bad precedent,” he said, adding that it is premature and may trigger a flood of similar applications.

Councillor Grant Ward disagreed. The development will be a “natural buffer.”

“I believe that some of 44 Avenue land is not very suitable for agricultural purposes. In other words, it never will be. It will not add anything in the future,” Ward said.

Tom Reinhart, who lives south of the property, was one of the speakers at the 2009 meeting. He drew attention to what he saw as the erosion of the ALR with the development of large “estate” homes.

Reinhart, who amalgamated two 10-acre properties in the 1990s to enhance the agricultural capability of both, said at the time: “All of us in farming depend on the availability of land. I don’t mean cheap land, but land that we can (affordably) buy, and grow on. We (farmers) are a dying breed. I feel it every day. We are getting squeezed. If it continues like this, maybe not in my time, but my kids won’t have a future.”

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