The Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) has refused the District of Kent’s exclusion application, leaving the long-contested Teacup properties as part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
According to the ALC’s online application portal, the decision came a week short of one year after the application was submitted.
In May of last year, the District of Kent 4-1 to support the removal of 17.2 hectares of prime, high-grade farmland on the border of the Agassiz townsite from the ALR. The land would have been used for commercial and residential development. Coun. Kerstin Schwichtenberg was the lone dissenting vote.
During a meeting last February, the Kent Agricultural Advisory Committee declined to support this most recent exclusion application.
This is not the first time an exclusion application has been discussed and filed; the history of the debate on whether or not the land should be reserved or removed from the ALR dates back nearly 30 years. The ALC first ruled against the Teacup properties’ removal in 2005, which resulted in the creation of the Mount Woodside neighbourhood in an in-filling effort to alleviate growing migration pressure in the eastern Fraser Valley.
A second application was prepared in 2016, in which an applicant asked to exclude 14.4 hectares of Teacup land in exchange for nearly 41 hectares of lesser-grade farmland, the donation of topsoil and a $2 million contribution to the district. The most recent application, submitted last summer, upped the ante to 17.26 hectares proposed for exclusion with 40.8 hectares of lower-grade farmland and topsoil donated as well as a $3 million contribution.
While growth and development are always complex areas of concern in the district, many residents argued land of such high quality farming potential was finite and should be conserved for future food security.
The 12-page decision package summarizes the history of the Teacup properties and corresponding decisions from the ALC. The main reasons for the decision echo local residents’ concerns about potentially wasting high-quality agricultural land.
“The Executive Committee finds that exclusion of one or all of the proposed exclusion properties would result in the loss of up to 16.9 hectares of highly capable agricultural land to urban uses,” a portion of the closing points reads. “This is inconsistent with the Commission’s purpose to preserve agricultural land and to prioritize in its decision making the size, integrity and continuity of the ALR.”
The decision acknowledged the challenges of growth that the district faces and commended the local government for its long history of dedication to agricultural stewardship.