The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has approved the City of Chilliwack’s request for non-farm use on a piece of prime farmland in Sardis to allow for an off-leash dog park.
More than half of the Sheffield Way property has been used as an unauthorized off-leash dog area by neighbours for years. Before that, and until they were levelled in 2010, the property was home to the so-called Sardis humps, or westside jumps, a popular park for mountain bikers and BMX riders.
In July 2016, city council agreed to forward the city’s application for non-farm use to formalize the off-leash dog park on 0.6 hectares of the one-hectare property with support.
A further 0.2 hectares is to remain in a natural state and the final 0.2 hectares is a parking lot.
In January, the ALC issued its decision that, despite the property’s “prime agricultural capability” that is “appropriately designated within the ALR,” its historical recreational use makes it unlikely to be used for agriculture in the short-term.
The ALC approved the non-farm use application only under the conditions that no permanent structures be erected thus impacting the property’s future capability for growing crops.
“The Panel agrees that the Proposal will not compromise the agricultural viability of the Property, so long as no permanent alterations to the Property are necessary in order to develop the off-leash dog area,” according to the Jan. 16 decision written by ALC South Coast Regional Panel members William Zylmans and Satwinder Bains.
The report outlines the property has Class 1 and 2 agricultural capability, the two highest levels.
Since the land is not being used for farming, and is being already used as an informal dog park, the city argued in its application that by creating a designated off-leash dog area, ongoing trespassing by dog owners on adjacent farmland can be reduced.
“The Panel finds that the Proposal may provide an appropriate buffer between the agricultural uses on the east and the residential uses to the south and west of the Property,” the ALC determined.