Friday, December 6, 2013

Industrial Speculation on Delta ALR Farmland Extended: Huntington

I grew up in Tsawwassen in the 1970s and 80s so I know these lands very well.  I went to high school with kids who came from the families expropriated in 1969.   Their families still farmed the land but were tenants and not owners.

Most of these optioned lands are on the north side of Hwy #17 near Tsawwassen.   If these land is taken out of the ALR, it will mean that much of the land between Hwy #17 and Deltaport Way will be industrial.   Can the remaining parcels be effectively farmed if the change happens?

Here is the press release from MLA Vicki Huntingdon

For Immediate Release

December 6, 2013

Industrial Speculation on ALR Farmland Extended: Huntington

Delta, B.C. – Independent MLA Vicki Huntington revealed today that nine option-to-purchase agreements have been extended in South Delta on prime farmland under speculation from a major Vancouver industrial developer.

“The option-to-purchase extensions come as no surprise,” says Huntington. “The developer has drawn out the agreements for another year in the hopes that either the Port or the province will hand him keys to steamroll over the Agricultural Land Reserve.”  Most of the original options were set to expire on November 30, 2013. All but two were extended by farm owners and developer Ron Emerson this year, and are now set to expire on November 30, 2014.  The total acreage of known option land has been reduced to 591 acres from 739 previously.

When Huntington first revealed the options in 2012, Ron Emerson outlined his plans for Class 1 ALR farmland east of the Tsawwassen First Nation – featuring an intermodal yard and up to five million square feet of large-footprint warehouses.

Farmland near Deltaport is some of Canada’s most agriculturally productive, with Delta farmers contributing over $170 million in farm gate receipts to the economy each year.  Nonetheless, Delta’s farmland has come under intense development pressure in recent years, fueled by Port expansion, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, and development following the 2007 Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement – which removed 355 acres of farmland from the ALR.

Both the province and Port Metro Vancouver may open the door to development on current ALR farmland.  As an agent of the federal government, PMV is immune from provincial law including the Agricultural Land Commission Act. Richmond Council has spoken out in recent years about PMV plans to destroy the 200-acre Gilmore Farm in Richmond, the first farm acquired by the Port for potential industrial use.

Huntington called for action in the Legislature last year, urging government to oppose the industrial speculation of farmland.  “I have – and continue to have – concerns that the province is giving developers reason to think paving over prime ALR farmland is a realistic possibility,” says Huntington.  “Not only does land speculation make it harder for young farmers to start farming, it threatens our food security, our historic values, and the survival of the Pacific Migratory Bird Flyway.”

Huntington points to a recently-leaked provincial cabinet document that suggested dismantlement the Agricultural Commission as evidence of government disregard for farming.  “By now government should know how sacrosanct our limited farmland is to the British Columbians.  We need real leadership to safeguard ALR farmland for future generations.”


Brad Densmore

• In 1968 and 1969 the provincial government expropriated 4,000 acres of Delta farmland for port-related industrial development. The lands were known as the Roberts Bank Back-up Lands.
• In the late 1990s, the government allowed farmers to buy back land (other than lands reserved for Treaty negotiations) for an average of $10,000-an-acre from the B.C. Assets and Land Corporation. It remained protected in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
• Three parcels of the Backup Lands were sold to farmers with a registered 60-metre wide Right of Way (ROW) adjacent to the existing BC Rail ROW.1
• In 2009, BC Railway Corporation bought 50 acres (20.1 hectares) adjacent to the registered ROW (known as the Option Lands) and subsequently acquired an additional 109 acres [44.25 hectares], bought per its mandate to “acquire land for port-related use”.2 3
• BC Rail exercised the ROW and will receive $50 million from government to add additional sidings as part of the Deltaport Terminal, Road and Rail Improvement Program (DTRRIP).
• Beginning in 2010, Lamington Heights Investments (Ron Emerson) signed options to purchase 558.4 acres (226 hectares) of farmland near the BC Rail properties. In total, 11 properties were optioned, for a sum of $98-million. [Original documentation available]
• With one exception, all options were originally set to expire on November 30, 2013, within six months of the next provincial election.
• In 2013, all but two of the options were extended to November 20, 2014.
• The Emerson Real Estate Group participated in Port Metro Vancouver’s Port 2050 visioning process.
• Ron Emerson has outlined plans for an intermodal yard and up to five million square feet of large-footprint warehouses.4
• Port Metro Vancouver is a federal government entity and may legally use ALR lands for non-farm uses.
• Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, BC Rail, Port Metro Vancouver, and Gateway Program strategies all include direction to acquire land for rail/port-related industry.

Revised Table of Optioned Properties
Owner           Hectares Acres Avg option Total option Expiry
                               price/acre   amount
FELIX FARMS LTD    65.26 161.27 $184,679 $29,865,105 30/11/2014
467773 BC (Guichon)32.78  81.00 $184,799 $14,964,659 30/11/2014
BKS ENTER. Badyal  33.42  82.58 $187,100 $15,451,200 30/11/2014
DOSANJH 50% option 20.47  50.58  $92,126  $4,659,965 30/11/2014
GILL               10.01  24.74 $185,095  $4,578,380 expired
KULAR/KULAR        49.95 123.43 $179,006 $22,094,550 expired
VAUPOTIC           14.10  34.84 $185,277  $6,455,400 30/11/2014
Grand Total       225.99 558.44          $98,069,259

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