I was delighted to see a response by Alan Wilson to my letter in The Morning Star. Respectful sharing of different views is a critical part of democracy. That being said, there are some specifics I’d like to respond to.
I’m well aware that the property in question is small, of poor arable quality and will not generate a significant income from farming.
In Scotland, I worked on a dairy farm weekends and summers through high school and then owned an active farm of 85 acres in Ontario for 21 years.
I’ve had to deal with everything from drainage issues and escaped cows to losing crops due to frost or drought. I understand the issues facing rural property owners.
But I am not going to debate agricultural approaches and the concepts of land stewardship. In my letter, I outlined a number of concerns regarding land use and the development of Vernon. I still believe them to be entirely valid.
First, if we’re going to develop affordable and more sustainable housing in Vernon, the place to start is higher density, residential development in the downtown core, not development of open fields.
Density in the centre of Vernon is low with numerous vacant commercial properties, low rise retail and many vacant lots turned over to parking. All of the critical services are within the downtown area already without additional spending being required.
Second, the outskirts of Vernon are being ringed by low-density subdivisions and what I can only describe as suburbanized countryside – such as the constant line of houses along the roadsides in the BX or Coldstream.
Such development is extremely expensive for municipalities to service for water, sewer and fire, etc. and generally leads to higher property taxes per household than higher density models.
Plus it means gradual paving of the countryside and loss of land that could be needed for agriculture or recreation in the future. Once it’s paved it’s gone for ever.
The Agricultural Land Reserve, for all its imperfections, is perhaps one way of controlling what some might regard as poorly designed development proposals.
Third, the City of Vernon spends a lot of money and staff time on developing plans of different types with extensive public consultation and input.
If these plans are simply loose guidelines that council can ignore, then it makes a mockery of the whole process. This also needs to be discussed within the community.
Our differing views suggest one thing to me.
If we are to come together as a community with a shared vision of how to move Vernon forward, then we all need to talk to each other a lot more about how we think our community should be developed.