Aldergrove farmland eyed for townhouses

A well-known developer who is eyeing 44 acres of farmland in Aldergrove got much closer to finding out if it can develop its high-density housing concept there.

At Monday’s afternoon meeting, Township council voted 5-4 to refer Genstar Development Company’s exclusion application to the Agricultural Land Commission. The land, located at 3250  264 St., is in the ALR, but not in Metro Vancouver’s Green Zone.

In February, Genstar held an open house showing a concept of townhouses and carriage houses.

In 1996, the Township applied to the ALC to take this farmland out. The ALC rejected the application. In 2010, council didn’t support referring an application to the ALC for this property.

Bertrand Creek and its tributary run through the unused farmland. The property is bordered by houses on two sides. It hasn’t been farmed for years, and has become a popular off-leash dog park, said Councillor Bob Long.

More people were against the concept than in favour, based on the feedback Genstar received from the 54 people who attended the open house.

One neighbour, who also is a member of the Bertrand Creek Enhancement Society, told council on Monday that he could see single family homes but not townhouses and condos. He said higher-density development should go in the downtown core as per the Township’s Aldergrove revitalization project.

“If we are going to ignore our plans to revitalize the downtown core, why make plans at all,” questioned Councillor Kim Richter. “We end up with another Tuscan Farm (which Township approved to take out of the ALC, to allow an 85-lot subdivision) of high density stacked at one end,” she said.

“If they do that, than they should have amenities within walking distance. This is nowhere near amenities.”

Long, who lives in Aldergrove, was in favour of sending the application to the ALC and in favour of seeing single family homes built.

“There is no other area to develop. Aldergrove is land locked by the ALR. We can’t force people to develop in the downtown,” said Long about the Township’s Aldergrove downtown revitalization plan.

“There is a definite market for single family on this land. We don’t have to approve townhouses and carriage houses.”

He suggested that allowing farming, like putting cows on the land, as one resident suggested, would pollute the creek.

Councillor Grant Ward said Aldergrove needs the population boost this development would give to help the struggling downtown core.

“We can’t keep saying no. By saying no we are asking Aldergrove to fall on the sword,” said Ward.

Councillor David Davis asked the Township to leave farmland alone.

“This is a cheap piece of land and that’s why it’s being looked at,” said Davis.

Councillor Michelle Sparrow said it was “short sighted to think land is endless.” She was frustrated with how much farmland the Township is developing.

Just last week, Township approved 67 compact residential lots to be built on the 153-acre Wall property at 224 Street and 72 Avenue.

“There are plenty of opportunities to develop and redevelop in Aldergrove that don’t include farmland,” she said.

“What about when food prices aren’t feasible and a tomato costs $5 or $10?”

She said she has lost her confidence in the ALC to “make the right decision.”

Mayor Jack Froese said Aldergrove needs growth if it is going to revitalize.

“There is declining enrolment at the high school and small businesses are struggling. We need people,” said Froese. “I represent our current citizens and future citizens. And this town needs some growth.”

The application has now been forwarded to the ALC.

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