The Strathcona Regional District has agreed a local landowner’s application should go before the province’s Agricultural Land Commission, which could remove part of his land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Ken Fear, who owns the property at 5400 Duncan Bay Rd., has asked for the local government to support his application to go to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“The land has been used for industrial and intensive uses for approximately 30 years,” SRD parks and planning manager Aniko Nelson said during a presentation of a staff report at the May 8 SRD board meeting.
Prior to the presentation, the board passed a motion allowing Fear to speak as a delegation at the outset of the meeting.
Fear had applied to exclude an approximately 4.1-hectare parcel from the ALR. Currently, the site is designated as agricultural but has no history of agricultural use and is classed 5PT (stoniness, adverse topography) on the Canada Land Inventory map. The report adds that since at least 1996 the site has been home to an auto wrecking and parts operation.
“I don’t plan on changing a lot on the property other than cleaning it up,” Fear said. “There have been thousands of dollars spent on the clean-up.”
As to why the change is happening now, Fear told the board the process is complaint-drive, and he was served noticed telling him he had to make the change or cease and desist all non-agricultural operations. He also said the operations have been there for many years, including an old sawmill that burned down a few years ago.
In exchange, Fear has offered another 3.2-hectare portion of his land not in the ALR but being used as a horse-boarding facility to be added to the land reserve. It also includes his residence.
“It was excluded from the ALR a long time ago,” he said.
The ALC, Fear anticipates, will have to conduct a site assessment to verify that land to be added to the reserve meets its requirements.
Following Nelson’s report presentation, Area D Director Brenda Leigh said the decision would not be a “popularity contest,” saying the land commission would make its decision based on merit rather than public sentiment.
“It’s very scientific,” she said. “We should just let them make their decision.”
SRD staff recommended the exclusion proposal go before the ALC, which will ultimately decide its fate, and that Fear submit an inclusion application for the adjacent 3.2-hectare site he is offering to add to the ALR.
“The regional district will follow up with a rezoning application for this parcel in question to ensure compliance with existing land uses,” Nelson said.
The board unanimously approved the recommendations. It had also received petitions on the matter.
Not everyone was happy with the development at the SRD board table. Connie Cawlee is opposing the move and took esxception to some of the information she heard at the meeting. She had submitted a petition and hoped to speak about the issue. Afterward, she said had been denied the opportunity to approach the board.
“What went on here today is not kosher,” she said. “It’s just mind-boggling.”
The matter of public delegations has been the subject on some confusion and controversy in 2019. A couple of delegations from Cortes Island had hoped to speak over concerns about board decisions pertaining to their community following the launch of a legal petition by 14 people against Area B Director Noba Anderson over alleged conflict of interest.