Response defends city’s position

Resident supports removing property from Agricultural Land Reserve

I‘d like to respond to the letter Ritchie Leslie submitted to The Morning Star Jan. 31 headlined “Council heads in wrong direction.”

My family owns the 20 acres directly to the east of the property in question. My argument to Mr. Leslie is that there is a distinct difference between agricultural land being preserved within the ALR and arable land.

The substrata in the Pottery Road area is laced with deposits of expansive clay, rendering much of it almost impossible to farm in any meaningful sense. The two agricultural water outlets on our property haven’t been turned on in 20 years because the clay barrier retains the water and turns what topsoil is present into a mud pit. This is why the City of Vernon was forced to expand the sewer along Pottery Road. The septic meant to service the elementary school simply couldn’t perk effectively.

I am very much in favour of creating an attainable housing project that will attract service industry employment to Vernon. This is the intent of the exclusion application he questions. In fact, the entire 30 acres on Pottery Road is marginal farm land that is on the City of Vernon sewer/water radius, with schools, public transportation and shopping within walking distance.

It is a natural location for an attainable housing project, including sufficient land for a park, community garden and perhaps a local corner store. I am in no way denigrating his argument for the need to preserve farmland.

My point is that when the reserve was created, much land was designated simply because it was part of larger titles that historically had been subdivided into smaller parcels by owners either looking for cash or passing property to children. The ALC snapped up these properties with no assessment as to how arable or productive they might be. The land in question is typical of this process.

Even a cursory look reveals riparian issues that render at least 30 per cent of the property useless for agriculture and the remainder comprising a clay base that yields one hay crop per year that can’t cover the property tax.

The letter writer has no idea of just how owners of small properties can subsist in a farming venture given property tax and water rate increases. He might be interested to know, although the water is turned off, we still have to pay for the allocation that amounts to roughly $I,600 per year for absolutely no service.

I can give you other examples in the Vernon area but I don’t wish to belabor my point. I believe land can be removed from the ALR if the decision addresses the question of just how arable and productive the property in question contributes to the mandate of the ALC. The real culprit to moving forward throughout our community is Vernon planning. Just how hard is it to move forward with proposed zoning that addresses both the need for attainable housing and light industrial that has been a cornerstone requirement throughout the last three OCP documents and critically required to expand the tax base?

This is Mr. Leslie’s sainted document that stipulates community guidelines but consistently fails to deliver meaningful solutions. No wonder certain councillors are getting fed up with the process and viewing it as a guideline.

It’s obvious by reviewing the available land base in Vernon that growth is virtually impossible without removing property from the ALR.

I believe the answer is staring us in the face and been the subject of study for far too long. Mr. Leslie just doesn’t get it or perhaps he is an advocate for higher property tax and water utility fees.

Alan D. Wilson

Vernon