Better use of Lantzville’s Agricultural Land Reserves could solve the community’s urban agriculture issue, but critics say Mayor Colin Haime’s plan won’t take root.
Over the last 10 months, a group of urban agriculture supporters demanded council amend its zoning bylaw to allow small-scale farming on residential lots.
In an effort to reduce conflict among neighbours, an occurrence that sparked the original debate regarding Compassion farm, Haime explored making the 138 hectares of ALR in Lantzville more accessible for urban agriculture supporters, by proposing smaller lots and tax incentives for people who want to make a modest living producing food.
Haime said most of the properties in Lantzville’s ALR are too large for people to do SPIN (small-plot intensive) farming economically, but too small for any effective large scale farming.
He added that much has changed socio-economically since the ALR was established in the 1970s, and he wants to partner with the province to establish a pilot project to update ALR uses.
“When it comes to the standpoint of food security and growing food that people are talking about, it’s a great idea, there’s no problem at all with the idea of locally grown food, but Lantzville is different from a lot of communities,” Haime said. “We’ve got ALR that is currently not being used for agricultural purposes. They become either large estate properties or, in the case of Lower Lantzville, there is a stretch of 60 acres where the people own a couple of cows. There is always going to be that pressure to develop or applications for exclusion from the ALR because the land is sitting there idle doing nothing.”
To eliminate people taking advantage of inexpensive land to build large homes, Haime proposes that residences be limited to 2,400 square feet to qualify for less expensive tax rates.
He also proposes three different land taxation designations depending on how the land is used: farm, residential farm and non-eligible residential, the latter of which would be subject to significantly higher tax rates.
“If ALR is meant to be productive, then let’s find a way to be productive and make it more accessible to small lot farmers,” said Haime.
But Andrew Mostad, spokesman for Friends of Urban Agriculture Lantzville, says residential zoning in Lantzville already allows adequate farming lots of one to two acres, and many of Haime’s proposals already exist in the ALR Act.
“You can already do most of the stuff that he is suggesting,” said Mostad. “ALR can already be broken up into smaller chunks and sold, it is already residential so you can already put houses on it, and his ideas behind a punitive tax are illegal. I don’t think this idea is workable at all.
“In Lantzville, through residential zoning, we already have plots that are broken up into perfect sizes for small families that are between one acre and 2.5 acres that you can make a decent living on, not a great living, but a decent living. Leave the larger parcels, already in the ALR, for larger farming operations like cattle.”
Mostad added that much of the ALR in Lantzville is not adequate for farming, but agrees that the size and expense of ALR land makes it inaccessible to small-time farmers.
“I would definitely want to look at ways to make the ALR more productive, I would look at things like cooperative ownership and community gardens to try and get more people interested in farming on the ALR land,” he said.
Haime said his goal is also to encourage people to grow food locally, and to provide opportunities for families who want to farm as an occupation, or at least as a secondary income. He added he still doesn’t believe that current residential lots are the appropriate place to grow food because of the conflicts between neighbours growing food creates, namely composting and manure practices.
With the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual conference taking place this week in Vancouver, Haime said he will shop the idea around to other municipalities to get a better gauge on it before taking it to provincial offices such as the Agricultural Land Commission, B.C. Assessment Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mostad said while he disagrees with the majority of Haime’s proposal, he thinks it’s at least something to build on.
“At least it’s an idea and we haven’t had any ideas for a long time. Even though I don’t think it’s appropriate I am glad that we are starting to get some ideas bouncing around.”
Agriculture meeting planned
Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville will host its final meeting in a series designed to help residents understand the challenges that urban agriculture faces in a modern world and the science behind soil maintenance.
Keynote speakers for the final session include: Arthur Bomke, UBC associate professor of agroecology and vice-chairman of the Agricultural Advisory Committee of the Greater Vancouver Regional District; Janine De La Salle, planner and food and agriculture systems specialist with HB Lanarc; Louise Negrave, professional agrologist; and Jenny Horn, a veterinary nurse and acting manager of VI Heritage Foodservice Co-op.
The meeting takes place at 2 p.m. at the Lantzville Legion on Sunday (Oct. 2).
Admission is $5 to cover expenses.