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Summerland council votes on land swap

Summerland council will meet tonight, Monday, for the second and third readings of a new Official Community Plan that would remove more than 80 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Council has already voted once in favour of the plan.

According to those opposed, under this new plan, the over 80 hectares of flat arable farm land would be swapped out of the ALR, while just over 90 hectares of rocky, hilly land, removed from the ALR in 2005, would be swapped to compensate.

Hundreds of people attended a public hearing on the contentious issue on March 3. Many of whom are active in the Stop the Swap movement, which has spoken out against the swap.

The space at the Arena Banquet Room was so packed with people, that some had to be turned away.

The majority of speakers were opposed to the plan, with concerns ranging from a need for agricultural land while California grapples with a drought, the need to preserve the land for future generations, an oversupply of housing and losing the beauty which draws people to Summerland.

A handful of people showed support, with some saying the downtown is a good place to put homes, because it will bring business to the area.

Erin Carlson, the organizer of Stop the Swap, said she was feeling cautiously optimistic in advance of the vote.

"So far our focus has been on getting the attention of the Agricultural Land Commission," she said. "But after such an overwhelming show of public support, we hope the council will listen to the people."

The district of Summerland has asked for pubic feedback on the matter, throughout the planning process.

Prior to the public hearing, there was a open house where residents were invited to view maps, talk to staff and learn about what comes next.

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