By Tom Corsie
The update of Port Metro Vancouver’s Land Use Plan has been nearly two years in the making and includes lands and water that encompass 16 municipalities and one treaty First Nation.
The purpose of updating the Land Use Plan, a requirement of the Canada Marine Act, is to ensure that Port Metro Vancouver has a plan and vision for its growth that reflects best practices in planning and sustainable development, while supporting Canada’s trade priorities and responding to the needs of communities throughout the Lower Mainland.
The consultation process and stakeholder engagement to help shape the draft Land Use Plan is something we take very seriously. In fact, over the course of the past two years, our teams have reached out to hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals from municipalities, agencies, organizations, First Nations, industry and the public to better understand concerns and identify opportunities.
More often than not, we found throughout this process that we agree more than we disagree, with perhaps the single most important issue being port growth.
Like many across the region, we see growing the port as not a question of an “if and when,” but “where and how.”
Growing activities and operations throughout the port is an important aspect of the regional economy. The port supports nearly 76,000 well-paying jobs while driving $15 billion in economic activity across British Columbia.
Recently, representatives of some municipalities have called into question whether or not Port Metro Vancouver’s strategy fully aligns with the plans of other agencies, in particular the Regional Growth Strategy adopted by Metro Vancouver.
It’s important to note that we agree with driving value, providing opportunities and increasing livability for residents throughout the community, and Port Metro Vancouver’s new Land Use Plan will reflect these objectives. But it is imperative the process not be an “either/or” proposition.
As Port Metro Vancouver has expressed on numerous occasions, we are concerned that the shrinking supply of industrial land will place ever increasing strain on important economic activities, including those at the port. This means fewer jobs and less tax revenue going to local coffers to support services for residents throughout the region.
The Regional Growth Strategy also identifies the protection of industrial land as an important goal. Industrial land is imperative to long-term sustainable prosperity by providing well-paying jobs, facilitating the movement of goods to and from the region, as well as contributing to municipalities by supporting their tax base.
Recent studies indicate that, depending on market conditions, the region may have a supply of usable industrial land that will last eight to 15 years.
While intensifying the use of the remaining industrial lands can help, the supply problem remains, and with fewer and fewer larger sites available, the Metro Vancouver region risks losing future industrial tenants to other regions – a risk compounded by the continued conversion of industrial lands to other uses.
We believe all land use needs can be met, but if we continue down this path, industrial users will be hard pressed to secure the land they need for their operations—impacting economic activity and jobs across the region.
Port Metro Vancouver supports a broad-based dialogue to find creative solutions to support all land use needs now and well into the future. By doing so, we can ensure the Lower Mainland continues to build on an aspiration of smart growth and sustainable prosperity.
Tom Corsie is Port Metro Vancouver’s vice-president of real estate.