Back in 2010 —when I published a report on the Agricultural Land Reserve— I noticed a disturbing trend of not excluding land from the ALR, but allowing urban residential development within the ALR. This makes it appear on paper that the ALR is intact while in reality, it is becoming urbanized.
The most infamous example of this is the Wall Corporation single-family housing development which is part of the controversial University District, but there are other examples in the Township of Langley.
In 1993, 2003 and 2009, attempts were made to exclude 11 acres of land along the southern edge of Murrayville from the ALR. The request was denied three times by the Agricultural Land Commission. In 2010, Alan Hendricks was granted the permission to develop this land within the ALR by the ALC under the guise that he provide a buffer between urban Murrayville and agricultural lands. Part of this development will include a 15 meter planted buffer along the south side of the project.
|Site of 21 single-family houses in the ALR. Near 44th Avenue and 216th Street in Murrayville.|
I remember being at the Sustainability by Design Conference back in 2009 where the topic of urban/rural buffers came up. While some planners thought that buffers like the proposed Murrayville buffer were needed, may people who actually lived at urban/rural interfaces noted that it was a solution looking for a problem. Also, many people questioned why the buffer had to be in the ALR instead of non-ALR land around the reserve. It seems like the urban/rural interface in the Murrayville project is just the excuse needed to allow for the development of 21 housing on half-acre lots within the ALR.
Last Monday night, Township Council heard the final reading of the bylaw to approve this project, and change the rural plan to make it easier to develop housing within the ALR in the future.
Section 5.8 of the Rural Plan will be renamed from “Comprehensive Rural Estates” to “Rural Residential” with the following wording removed:
Lands designated for Comprehensive Rural Estates purposes shall not be located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
What is really disappointing is that Township Council has a history of approving single-family housing projects within the Agricultural Land Reserve, yet compromises plans in urban parts of community that would help the Township become more accessible and sustainable.