It was an application to make changes to agricultural properties in Chilliwack that was supposed to be sent to the Agricultural Land Commission with support by Chilliwack council Tuesday.
Instead city council referred it back to staff for another look.
Councillor Sam Waddington raised the matter, and brought forth the motion to refer it back to staff, which later passed by council.
He acknowledged later that it was a bit of a “hot-button” issue, but said it was ultimately geared to protecting agricultural land, and the pros outweighed the cons.
Referring it back means that city staff can broach the matter with the applicant, with the idea of drafting a voluntary covenant to address the issue of setbacks and site placement of residences on ag land.
“I’m in favour of the southern portion and alternate use, but I have a concern about the northern portion,” Coun. Waddington said during the council meeting.
The application for “non-farm use” and “boundary adjustment” in the Agricultural Land Reserve, is for properties at 44675 and 44705 Watson Road, which includes expanding the Vedder View Gardens Cemetery.
With an agricultural property there can only be one residence sited on it, but where it gets sited on the land is an issue for some municipalities. Viable farm land can effectively be wasted by property owners building sprawling estate homes with massive setbacks.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz stated during the council meeting that the Agricultural Advisory Committee has also expressed concerns about the matter of setbacks on ag land.
“So this is certainly well worth a discussion,” Gaetz said.
There is perhaps a broader question to be answered about ensuring the maximum use of farm land, Waddington said after the meeting. Sometimes with the larger estate homes, with long driveways, “it can eat up” acres of farmland, which wastes it, if there are no maximum setbacks from the road or building envelope limits. Chilliwack council may want to take the “progressive” step eventually and be one of the first municipalities in the province to draft legislation around those concerns, he said.
The topic came up this week during the ALC application discussion because there are “holes” in the regulations in key areas, around site placement, which need to be addressed, Coun. Waddington said.
Although this was just one ALC application, the topic is an ongoing one for council.
“I think this is a matter that will continue to come up,” said Waddington.