Penticton & South Okanagan News
Summerland ALR gets public hearing
Around 60 people filled council chambers in Summerland Tuesday night to hear the first reading of the Official Community Plan go to a vote.
After dealing with other business, the motion to take the OCP to a public hearing was passed by a vote of 4-1, with the four voting in favour of the proposal that would see about 80 hectares of Summerland farming land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in exchange for 90 hectares. Peter Waterman was the only councillor to vote against it.
Erin Carlson, a Summerland fruit grower who was part of the big crowd in attendance, said she was disappointed.
Carlson and others have been active in a grassroots campaign know as Stop the Swap.
"Around 90 per cent of the 60 there were in opposition to the council's plan," she said. "The farmland we are standing up for needs to remain viable farmland because once it's gone we can never get it back."
Waterman said he voted against it, because it's a bad idea to lose good farm land and replace it with bad farm land.
The council directed staff to review the urban growth strategy for Summerland at the beginning of 2013.
They started down that road and hired a consultant to find out the wishes of the public.
"Our goal was to engage in a meaningful way ,10 per cent of the population, and we had surveys online, open houses and youth engagement exercises," said Ian McIntosh, the director of development services.
At the end of the day, staff engaged 1,300 people between February and October of 2013.
As part of that, staff identified 13 potential areas where there could be growth and had a survey in September when people could check off areas suitable for the growth.
"From the survey we determined some ALR land would be suitable according to the residents' response," said McIntosh. "And we took that information and drafted up a map."
The map was brought to council on Dec. 9, and once people saw it they got upset because of the removal of the ALR land, said McIntosh.
"We recognized excluding 80 hectares of the land will not be easy," he said. "So we proposed to include 90 hectares of land that was of interest to agricultural business people."
It was the bylaw that would change the urban growth boundary according to the new map that was created that went to first reading on Tuesday night.
Carlson said she had been concerned about what was going on for awhile and started getting organized in mid December.
A website titled savethesummerlandalr was created, with information on how to sign a petition, the issue and events.
A rally was held on Family Day at Memorial Park. Around 300 people attended to learn more about the issue and hear speakers.
A public hearing on the matter is now scheduled for March 3 at Arena Banquet Hall.
From there it goes to a second and third reading, most likely on March 10.
It will then be held at third reading and the new wording in the OCP will be sent to the Agricultural Land Commission for a decision on whether they will grant the exclusion of agricultural land and at the same time looking at the inclusion of the other land, said Waterman
Carlson said she anticipated the matter going to a public hearing and will listen to everyone's comments.
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