Lorne Bustin reflects Fernridge farmland frustrations

There are many angles to a story in last Thursday’s Times about the possibility of removal of  a 14.62 acre parcel of land in Fernridge from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

As property owner Lorne Bustin points out, the land is not really suited for any type of farming that uses the soil. It is one of many properties in that area which is composed of gravel, which is one reason there have been many gravel pits in the general area over the years.

However, it was included in the Agricultural Land Reserve many years ago because it was a working turkey farm. Turkey farms do not require any particular type of soil — turkeys are grown in barns and all their feed is brought to them by truck.

Many turkey and chicken farms in Langley were established in areas where the soil conditions have been poor. In the days before rapid urbanization of this area, poultry farms were located on larger pieces of property — no  matter what the soil was like. There were large farms in Willoughby, Brookswood and Fernridge — none of which have particularly good soil conditions.

A large chicken farm was located adjacent to where Costco now sits, and was active into the 1990s. The property is now covered by townhouses.

However, poor soil conditions should not be the only criteria for whether a property is in or out of the ALR. If poultry farms do not require good soil, why build them on properties that do have good soil? Why not establish zoning for this type of farm that has nothing to do with soil?

There is a turkey farm in Surrey, near the Langley border on 52 Avenue, that is located in the midst of an industrial area. The uses are not incompatible, although in this case the farm was there first.

Bustin’s property is located close to a major industrial area in Surrey — the Campbell Heights business park. That area developed ahead of schedule because Surrey decided to spend a lot of money and put in a major sewer line.

Meanwhile, many properties on the Langley side of 196 Street have stagnated. Where there were farms, in some cases there are vacant barns and unkempt fields. Much of the land has been held by speculators for years. In fact, development in Fernridge and Brookswood was a major issue in the 1996 Langley Township election. That was 17 years ago.

The Township is finally getting around to doing sone work on planning in that area, but for most of the past two decades, Brooks-wood and Fernridge have been placed on hold while Willoughby has received all the attention from planners and politicians.

Bustin’s plea highlights a couple of important points. The Agricultural Land Reserve needs some fine tuning, and there needs to be a distinction between farming that requires good soil and farimng that doesn’t.

Fernridge and Brookswood also deserve more attention, so that people who live and own property there have some clear idea of what the future holds.

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