Monday April 30, 2012

Community

Desperately Seeking Dinero

The ALC is strapped for cash; here's why and Tycrop public meeting May 24 in Rosedale

Submitted by JM, Chilliwack

 

n Wednesday, a small delegation of local residents concerned with expansion plans at Tycrop visited with Mayor Sharon Gaetz, Planning & Strategic Initiatives Director, Kurt Houlden and Chief of Administrative Operations, Peter Monteith, at City Hall.

We were honoured to offer the regrets of our new MLA, Gwen O'Mahony, who is currently in Victoria learning the legislative ropes in preparation for her new role.

The City is to be commended for having hosted the delegation and also for listening to our concerns and answering them in a detailed and respectful manner.   It is now reasonably clear what timelines and the order of the process look like.  At the same time, it is not entirely clear what the City's position on the development is.  While ostensibly responsible only for the re-zoning of land in its jurisdiction, there are members of Council who are determined to take a more activist stance in the processing of applications to the Agricultural Land Commission.

It has been the practice of the City Council and Mayor, in recent years, to forward applications to the Agricultural Land Commission without comment.  Recently, though, there have been exceptions.  For example, there is the instance of ALR00193, in which the Council unanimously voted to send the application with support, while the Mayor opted to vote "nay" (20 December, 2011 meeting of Chilliwack City Council).  It seems there is some movement in Council Chambers toward a new role for the City in the matter of applications made in their jurisdiction, despite the Mayor's apparent effort to rein it in.  She has made it clear that sending these applications with the recommendation of Council opens the door to conflict of interest, saying ""I think council wades into muddy waters when we send support for something that we will have to vote on at a later date."

Now that Tycrop is aware that the community's antennae are up, they are engaging the press.  It doesn't escape my attention, however, that the two brief articles which appeared in local media this week reveal no more about the company's plans than was previously known, despite the company's promise to the Progress's Robert Freeman to discuss the matter, recently.  Tycrop is playing its cards close to its chest.  I expect it comes as something of a surprise that people in this sleepy little Valley aren't quite as laconic as they might appear to the casual observer. 

Unfortunately, all we really know about Tycrop's plans for the land on McGrath Road is what John Les told us in the legislature, on February 27 (see section 1050).  In fact, "City of Chilliwack planning staff said Tycrop has filed a notice of application for exclusion from the ALR, but has not yet submitted the application with details of the proposed land use."  Not even the City has been apprised of the nature of these plans in the formally accepted manner of applying to the ALC.

At the Wednesday morning meeting, City officials pointed to the integrity and independence of the Agricultural Land Commission, much as byelection candidate Laurie Throness did at the All Candidates Meeting held in Sardis.  The problem is, though, how effective can this body be when it has been systematically starved for cash by the same government that has presided over its startling erosion over the past decade?

"In November 2008, the ALC estimated it was operating at approximately 20 per cent below its minimal requirements to maintain its core business". The infusion of cash it received late last year has been deemed insufficient for the ALC to continue being an effective agency for the stewardship of the Agricultural Land Reserve. 

Connect the dots.  Since its advent as the government of this province in 2001, the BC Liberals have clawed hundreds of hectares from the Reserve and now, 600 more are theatened in the Delta land deal.  How best to hobble the ability of the ALC to do its work than to starve it for resources?  How better to serve the interests of developers clamouring to get their mitts on lands held in the Reserve than to marginalize the regulatory agency responsible for its preservation?

The Auditor-General's 2010 report on the Agricultural Land Commission paints a rather dire picture of the gradual defunding of the Commission:

"In 2002/03, the Agricultural Land Commissionís budget was $2,930,000. Since that time, the budget has decreased. The commissionís most recent detailed budget submission, in November 2008, estimated that with the 2008/09 budget of $2,435,000 it was operating at approximately 20% ($530,000) below its minimal requirements to maintain its core business. By 2010/11, the commissionís budget was further reduced to $2,088,000."

The infusion of cash received at the end of 2011 does not even begin to address the fiscal crisis the ALC is facing.  It is not difficult to make the connection between the continuing erosion of the Agricultural Land Reserve in examining the parallel erosion of the agency charged with its stewardship.

As the people of Chilliwack await Tycrop's announcement regarding a public meeting and further information about its "great expansion plans", the bigger picture must be held in tension with local concerns.  In sum, the BC Liberal government since its inception has not been a friend to the Commission and its role in preserving the ALR.  Rather, it has seen fit to gradually and deliberately defund it and in so doing, render it less effective in the execution of that role.

As British Columbians wake up to the threat of being the backyard of a petrostate, it is hoped the dawning light will break also on the twin threat to our precious and endangered arable land.  When it's gone, it's gone....for good.

The number is:  604 392 3498.  I have called and left a message with my number.  I would ask that you all do the same.  This number is for Ryan Anderson of OTG Development Concepts, the company responsible for shepherding Tycrop through the ALR application process.

Thank you for calling and helping to ensure that Tycrop understands there is a strong public interest in this meeting being held.


UPDATE:  We have a date, time and place.  The press was apprised, although the date does not appear on the sign. Pass it on:  we meet Tycrop on May 24, at 7 pm at Rosedale Traditional School.  Please note that the date is "tentative", even though it has now appeared in the press.

 

The number is:  604 392 3498.  I have called and left a message with my number.  I would ask that you all do the same.  This number is for Ryan Anderson of OTG Development Concepts, the company responsible for shepherding Tycrop through the ALR application process.

Thank you for calling and helping to ensure that Tycrop understands there is a strong public interest in this meeting being held.

UPDATE:  We have a date, time and place.  The press was apprised, although the date does not appear on the sign. Pass it on:  we meet Tycrop on May 24, at 7 pm at Rosedale Traditional School.  Please note that the date is "tentative", even though it has now appeared in the press.

It also seems that the powers that be at Tycrop/OTG believe concerned citizens are "confused" and that communications are to blame. 

"The confused person says 'no,'" he said. "We need to do a better job of making sure people aren't confused."


A better job of it might have been done by not posting the application on the Thursday night before a long weekend, for a start.  Perhaps even posting the "tentative" meeting details on the advisory with the phone number might have helped, too. 

Just some "confused" commentary from one of the hoi polloi, Mr. Anderson.

It also seems that the powers that be at Tycrop/OTG believe concerned citizens are "confused" and that communications are to blame. 

"The confused person says 'no,'" he said. "We need to do a better job of making sure people aren't confused."
A better job of it might have been done by not posting the application on the Thursday night before a long weekend, for a start.  Perhaps even posting the "tentative" meeting details on the advisory with the phone number might have helped, too. 

Just some "confused" commentary from one of the hoi polloi, Mr. Anderson.

 

 

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