Big crowd at ALR meeting

There was a good turnout for the town hall meeting on Summerland's urban growth strategy Monday night.

Around 350 people attended the meeting in the Summerland Secondary School gym to learn more and ask questions regarding the contentious issue.

Of greatest concern is a land swap that would see just over 80 hectares of farmland removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve and 90 hectares of land farther out of town, in West Prairie Valley, swapped in.

"Our focus was to give information to the public about why we even considered the urban growth boundary change," said Mayor Janice Perrino. "And I think for those who wanted more information, we tried our best to give more information."

The meeting began with presentations from district staff, council, two agribusinesses interested in the West Prairie Valley land that would be swapped and the mayor.

Perrino said they addressed whether the land going out is as good as the land going in,  population, infrastructure growth and infill.

The meeting was opened up for questions in the second half.

According to Perrino, they only took written ones, because they only wanted questions not opinions.

According to the Mayor, moderator Erick Thompson read out 70 questions regarding such issues as a referendum, the need for growth and why this process is like it is. 

Members of Stop the Swap, a group opposed to the proposed changes, said they hoped the meeting would be their chance to change the dialogue in town and start talking about alternatives to the swap.

"Unfortunately, the format did not allow for a back and forth dialogue," said Alex Thistlewood, a founding member of Stop the Swap. "There were many questions yet to be answered by the time the meeting was ended at 9:30 p.m. for the high school to close."

The district has promised to answer those questions on their website in the next few days, he added.

Fellow member Erin Carlson also commented after the meeting.

"The bottom line is that we cannot sacrifice great farmland for houses," she said. "This is about the integrity of the ALR."

Council scheduled Monday's town hall meeting, after people were turned away from a previous public hearing on March 3, due to lack of space.

There will be a second and final public hearing on April 22, also in the high school gym.

A final decision on the matter will be made on April 28 at the regular council meeting.



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