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Surrey city staff to assess all agricultural land, with a view to protect it

Council passed Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s motion on Monday
Surrey council chambers inside city hall. (File photo)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has asked city staff to assess all of the city’s agricultural “food-producing land” with a view toward protecting it “with the purpose of addressing future food security requirements.”

His motion was passed by council Monday night.

McCallum added that because protecting “high-yield” agricultural land is fundamental to ensuring food security in Surrey, he also moved that 220 acres of “exceptionally fertile” farmland located at 192 Street and 36 Avenue be designated as agricultural as part of the Official Community Plan review to take place next year.

“In addition I propose that the city work with the federal and provincial governments to move towards bringing these lands into the Agricultural Land Reserve,” he said. This was also passed.

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Coun. Linda Annis noted the 220 acres in South Surrey is “hugely valuable” in that it produces the “very first” root crop vegetables in all of western Canada and supplies vegetable to much of western Canada.

“So this is fantastic news, so thank you for bringing this motion forward,” she told McCallum. “I do know that the land is up for sale, it’s surplus lands from the federal government, so I’m hoping as part of the work that the city will do with the federal government and provincial government is not only to bring it into the ALR but also to either secure the purchase of it or to get the federal government to retain ownership of it just to ensure it remains in the ALR into perpetuity.”

Coun. Brenda Locke said she would rather have seen this come to council in the form of a corporate report “outlined in an appropriate way that describes the process and I think we’re just a little bit ahead of ourselves on this motion although I will obviously support it.”

If Surrey is thinking it will purchase the land, she said, “we’re almost fourth in line. First Nations comes first, and then the province, and then the city.”

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Coun. Steven Pettigrew said he’s “very excited” to see council get behind McCallum’s motion and have staff evaluate the city’s agricultural land “and see if we can preserve that.”

Coun. Laurie Guerra said “this is the right thing to do, at the right time to do it. What we can do as a city is work on the zoning, that is what we have the power to do.”

McCallum noted the city cannot put the 220 acres into the ALR because that has to be done by the landowner, in this case the federal government.

“And that’s why the wording in this motion is to work with the federal government and the provincial government to at least let them know our intent, that we feel our citizens want to see this land used for.”

As the Oct. 15 civic election approaches, competing slates quickly fired off press releases. Under the heading “Doug Gets It Done,” the Safe Surrey Coalition’s press release said the SSC promised voters in 2018 to “Pause Development and to only proceed with Smart Development” and it is “taking concrete steps to protect our food security and farming jobs for future generations.”

Surrey Connect’s press release noted that while there is “no doubt” the federally-owned farmland in Campbell Heights “should and must be preserved,” it is “disingenuous in the extreme for politicians to now, with less than 100 days until the next election, to bring this complex issue forward and jeopardizes everyone’s’ negotiating position.

“This land is and has been designated as Industrial Land in the City of Surrey’s Official Community Plan (OCP) since 1966, and during McCallums’ previous tenure as Mayor,” the Surrey Connect press release adds.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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