Wall farm proposal may drag down university district
The ongoing public hearing on the Trinity Western University university district has now been adjourned until April 15.
When the matter came up at Township council on Monday, Feb. 4, much of the discussion centred around the associated rezoning of the Wall farm, which is south of the campus and across the Salmon River and railway tracks. Plans call for 67 homes to be built in the midst of fields there, with a working farm surrounding them.
This contentious development has been before council for more than a year, and in my opinion, it may well drag the entire university district proposal down with it.
How? It’s quite simple. If the NDP are elected government in May, as opinion polls seem to indicate could happen, the Agricultural Land Commission will be one of the first agencies scrutizined. The ALC was set up by the NDP government of Dave Barrett and is a touchstone for the party.
I would be very surprised if an NDP government does not immediately reverse the ALC decision to allow housing on the Wall farm, given that the land remains within the land reserve. But because of the artificial association between it and the Trinity university district, which seems to have primarily been at the insistence of Langley Township, the university district itself will come under far more scrutiny.
Metro Vancouver has already indicated its opposition to the district, which is primarily to apply to Trinity-owned lands across Glover Road from the campus. Those lands, which do not have nearly the farming potential that the Wall property has, have already been removed from the ALR.
A university district surrounding TWU will give the campus an opportunity to expand in an orderly way over the next 50 years. It has grown substantially from its early days as Trinity Junion College, and it is an important institution in this community. It also is a key economic driver.
While Metro Vancouver is opposed to it, the reality is the university campus predates the ALR and could not easily be relocated. If it is able to expand to adjacent land which is only marginally good for agriculture, that seems to make sense.
However, if an NDP government wants to take a swipe at TWU (which has been in the sights of NDP allies like the B.C. Teachers Federation in the past), it would find that an easy proposition if its university district plans are interwoven with the Wall property.
It would be in TWU’s best interests to dissociate the university district from the Wall proposal. Let the housing plan stand or fall on its own merits.
However, it would be a negative for this community if TWU’s plan to have a large university district also collapsed. Post-secondary education is an important benefit to this community, and we are fortunate to have two institutions located here. Township council needs to encourage both TWU and Kwantlen expansion plans.