I couldn’t agree more with Pamela Owen (Morning Star letters Nov. 3) that economic development must surface as the top priority in the pending review of our official community plan.
The substantial loss of employment in Vernon, as shown in recent census data, and the growing number of for lease signs that continually appear throughout the business district leaves nothing but a constant pall over the city.
It was with great interest, therefore, that I see a proposal to effectively dismantle the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), creating two economic zones that would now manage land use decisions in B.C. And, in the case of the Okanagan, pass more control for community growth to local government.
I, for one, couldn’t be happier. In my view, the ALC is the single most cynical piece of legislation ever enacted in our province.
Firstly, it has little precedence within North America.
An area that houses so much developed and undeveloped agricultural land that any concern for feeding our populations given modern farming techniques is hardly of any long term importance.
And secondly, the large acreages removed for port development in the Lower Mainland were, with the exception of one vote, unanimously supported in the legislature by the NDP, which originally crafted the ALC mandate.
This can hardly be characterized as solving a pressing human need or even a serious core program that engendered unanimous and well meaning party support. This says nothing as to the arbitrary way it was carried out.
It’s a band wagon I’m simply not on and see very little in the mandate as being remotely close to sacrosanct.
It is obvious to even the most casual observer that the City of Vernon has effectively been hamstrung for years in creating any light-industrial or serviced commercial zoning given the strangle-hold the ALC has on land within the city boundary.
Moreover, there are several large properties with water, sewer, school and public transportation services in place that are minutes from downtown and could easily be developed as single-family affordable housing, another high priority identified in the OCP but effectively stifled by the ALC.
This is not an excuse for past inactivity. It’s little wonder that Vernon’s economic atrophy continues when our administrators appear to have little appetite to take on the ALC even in the face of pressing community need.
Our current team seem to spend inordinate amounts of time on small, low-impact items such as regulating idling vehicles, sponsoring Pace cars or giving tax dollars away through special bequests.
This may sound somewhat insensitive and overstated, but my money is on an OCP update that is riddled with the same words that rendered the last attempt into a tome of public optics – a document that sounds good but, as Clara says, “where’s the beef?”
What we need to see is a bold statement of proposed zoning changes and a council that can work with what looks like a new provincial mandate to change gears and get Vernon’s economic development permanently out of reverse.
Alan D. Wilson