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Flood protection offered to offset ALR exclusion

John van den Brink pats his dog as he looks out on his 40-acre hazelnut tree farm which was under water for six weeks in 2011. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
John van den Brink pats his dog as he looks out on his 40-acre hazelnut tree farm which was under water for six weeks in 2011.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

An application to remove almost 18 hectares of high-quality farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve is being eyed for a future business park to foster "agri-industrial" activity in Chilliwack.

Twice in the past nine years, the property at 45400 Parr Road has been the subject of exclusion requests to remove it from the ALR. Both times it was turned down.

But this time the formal application for exclusion to the Agricultural Land Commission is accompanied by a bold offer for flood protection improvements.

The idea is to build a low-elevation berm along the crumbling riverbank at Carey Point — in exchange for the ALR exclusion approval for the 17.6 ha of land on Parr Road.

It's an idea the members of the Agricultural Advisory Committee gave the nod to last year, along with supporting the exclusion proposal in principle.

At the Tuesday council meeting, the matter was forwarded to the ALC with support from council.

Councillor Ken Huttema said the proposal was the first application of its kind handled by the Ag advisory committee, and he thanked the proponents and staff for their work on it.

"At the end of the day it's something that I think will be of benefit to the City of Chiliwack. It may be hard to lose some agricultural land but it will go a long way to fixing an area of concern."

He added that council was looking forward to seeing a favourable reply from the ALC.

The ALC turned thumbs-down to an earlier exclusion application in 2003, and again in 2012 when the owners proposed exclusion together with the offer of property elsewhere in the province. The ALC decision noted the property was "class 1 and 2 farmland, and had agricultural capability," therefore the exclusion could adversely impact agriculture, and was not in line with the ALC's mandate of protecting agricultural land.

"The applicant seeks approval to exclude the subject property from the Agricultural Land Reserve to facilitate future 'employment lands' development particularly for agri-industrial and business park use," according to the City of Chilliwack staff report.

"The ALC also provided the rationale that the environmental setbacks on the subject property would limit the amount of land which could be used for an agri-industrial park."

City officials had included the property — because of its proximity to urban development and transportation links — in the 2003 Employment Lands block exclusion with a view to to secure lands that might be suitable for economic development, so the current application is seen as being "in line with the City's long-term economic development goals," according to the staff report.

Abbotsford-based Homecraft Construction and Wilmark Homes, are listed on the documents as the applicants, with Peter Kingma as signatory for both.

A covenant would see protection of up to 156 hectares of agricultural land at the northern tip of the city, which has been subject to recurrent flooding, including incidents in 2011 and 2012.

The deal is that the applicants would opt for Option 3 as mapped out by Northwest Hydraulic Consultants in a December 16, 2011 report. Estimated to cost almost $6 million, the flood protection works would include construction of an access road and flood barrier along Carey Point.

"Option 3 is an access road that would basically reconstruct the failed orphan dike from the end of Carey Road to Carey Point with alignment adjusted to account for recent erosion."

An agrologist report, cited by the city report, looked at the both the Parr Road property and the Carey Point area, and concluded that:

"Although removal of the 18 hectares of high-quality farmland located in Chilliwack will be a loss to the agriculture land base, the benefits to agriculture sector and the farming community from protecting the 156 hectares (119 hectares in production) of farmland at Carey Point are substantial.

"If major bank stabilization and erosion control works are not implemented at Carey Point, the reduction in agricultural productivity and loss of high quality farmland will in all probability continue and the cumulative losses to agriculture over the next several decades would exceed the loss to agriculture by removal of the Parr Road property from the ALR."

If approval the ALR exclusion is granted, the applicant will then seek an OCP change to IG "General Industrial" and to rezone the subject property to a new CD (Comprehensive Development) Zone, according to the city report.

The application is seen by the city as "consistent" with its OCP objectives for adequate land supply for long-term economic development.

"The exclusion of this property would also facilitate the connection of Airport Road connection to Eagle Landing Way," notes the staff report.

"While this connection is envisioned within the OCP as a future road connection, it is anticipated that the connection will be dedicated, built and funded directly by the benefitting developments."

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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