Sunday, October 4, 2009

ALC now a tool for developers

Drive along south-east Marine Drive in Burnaby today and notice that more farmland has disappeared under developers' sand piles, being readied for construction of new strip malls and warehouses. How long before all those mixed farms of South Burnaby are gone forever? We nibble away at lands that produced crops for generations until so little is left that defenders surrender.

Take a look at Google Earth or Google Maps satellite image. The area north of Richmond's Westminster Highway, east of No. 6 Road, running north to Marine Drive across the river, is steadily disappearing into the urban chaos. It is an island of green with steadily retracting boundaries. City folks who protest loss of old growth forests might look closer to home and start asking, "Who is protecting the lower mainland's remaining farmland?"

The Provincial Agricultural Land Commission was a 1973 creation of Dave Barrett's government. Today's NDP likes to remind us smugly that the legislation is so good, that even the piratical Liberals dare not eliminate it.

Of course, the truth is different. The ALC now serves a gatekeeping purpose for land developers. The profit potential of their product depends on scarcity of developable land. The ALC obliges by managing the shift of farmland to other uses, slowly divvying out allocations to maintain an orderly market for favoured associates, à la De Beers.

The ALC also erects a wall of beguilement that keeps amateurs off their doorstep. If a Fraser Valley farm family wants to sell land for "higher" use, the farmers will give up in frustration and eventually sell the farm to a politically connected operator who knows where to apply grease to move along the political process to exclude, subdivide or use land in the ALR for non-farm purposes.

Stephen Ree's Blog is an always interesting forum for information about land use and transportation. Sinking river delta could mean trouble along Fraser examines issues that illustrate how current road and land development strategies are mistaken.

The comments too are worth reading and Stephen offers numerous links for additional reading. The Tyee published an evaluation of flood risk that is worthwhile: Fraser River Will Surge over Dikes, Experts Find.
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