Regional Growth Strategy wins near-unanimous support, as Steves sounds warning on ALR

Richmond city councillor Harold Steves, who probably has done more than any other individual to save BC’s agricultural land from urban sprawl, was the sole vote against adoption of the Regional Growth Strategy at Metro Vancouver yesterday.

Steveston farmer and Richmond councillor Harold Steves

Although Steves supports the rest of the strategy, developed after nine years of consultation and more than 40 public forums and meetings, including nine in Vancouver, he would not endorse a plan that appears to leave some land open to removal from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Despite staff assurances that no removals would be possible without the approval of the Agricultural Land Commission and local councils, Steves was unmoved.

With climate change destroying billions of dollars worth of global food production with droughts and floods every day, the value of every acre of agricultural land is rising, he warned.

No one disagreed, but after so many years of debate, the majority believed it was time to send the plan out to councils for ratification. Steves may take some consolation from the fact that this plan, unlike the Liveable Region Strategic Plan it replaces, has an Urban Containment Boundary.

For the first time, planners not only must acknowledge the value of agricultural land, they must work within firm boundaries intended to contain sprawl.