Note: After last Council meeting’s review turned into a 3 part saga that took a week for me to publish, I have decided to change the format a bit. Instead of providing one massive review, I will be posting shorter articles on individual topics as they come up. Hopefully this provides for more accessible articles, more in depth analysis and the ability for readers can skip to the topics they care most about!
There were three items of significance up on Council’s afternoon meeting agenda of December 10, 2018. The first was an application by the Worldwide Evangelization for Christ for the Luke 15 House. According to the staff report, Luke 15 House operates a “…residential addiction recovery program, [which] specializes in the treatment of addictions for men, and has been in operation since 1992.”
The application is technically for use of non-farm purposes on ALR land as it gives permission for up to 34 residents living on site (assuming temporarily) and is for a social service rather than farming uses. While I am strict proponent of farm use on ALR land, my concern is more when there is a permanent and detrimental change to the property. Previous “non-farm” based uses date back to the Linden Lodge special needs facility and then a 1995 rezoning for a missionary training facility with World Missions Training Centre. Because of these past uses, there is already a 34-unit residence and facilities that are appropriate for the proponent.
The proponent of this application is actually adding a greenhouse to the existing property for its residential recovery program. It is not a submission for exclusion from the ALR, or to increase the footprint or to add any new non-farm uses. The property already has non-farm uses that are similar to Luke 15 House. The reason it is coming forward is mainly because this new use is slightly different and therefore requires a new submission to the Agricultural Land Commission since the previous (and very dated) non-farm use application would have been very specific. See full details here. I agree with Councillor Bob Long’s sentiment of hope that people (like myself) who are more strict on ALR policy understand the benefits of this application and don’t automatically oppose it.
That said, if I was sitting on Council at this time, I would not automatically send this to the ALC either, especially based on the merits of 1995 ALC & Township decisions. I was 13 years old at that time. Since then, farmland in Langley has become more scarce, we have improved our local and regional agricultural and sustainability policies dramatically since that time. Personally, although I would likely support this application, I would use this opportunity almost more out of a matter of principle to review such non-farm use in greater detail before sending to the ALC.
Council supported sending the application to the Agricultural Land Commission in a 8-1 vote with Councillor Richter opposed.
I would have probably made a motion for a deferral so I could re-visit the site and collect more information on the original ALC application. If we are going to base so much of the decision on the previous use, we should review the merits of the decades old decision.