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Summerland land swap given okay
The fate of Summerland’s proposed Urban Growth Strategy now lies with the Agricultural Land Commission after council approved the controversial plan in a 4-1 decision on Monday evening.
Coun. Peter Waterman was the sole opponent of the plan.
Coun. Lloyd Christopherson and Coun. Bruce Hallquist, who both own land in the affected area, were not present at the meeting. The two councillors have not been present for any of the discussion, the town hall meeting, the public hearings or the votes on the growth plan.
Since early December, the plan has led to strong opposition from some in the community, since it includes an agricultural land exchange.
If the provincial land commission approves the plan, a total of 80.34 hectares of land near the core of the community will be removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve, while 91.7 hectares in the Prairie Valley area would be added to the land reserve.
Opponents of the land exchange have stated repeatedly that the swap is not fair since the land slated for exclusion is of a much better quality than the land which would be added to the land reserve.
The outcome of the vote, before a packed audience, was the same as other votes on the growth plan.
Coun. Martin Van Alphen said while he is passionate about agriculture, the growth strategy is a community planning decision.
“This is simply a planning issue. Nothing more; nothing less,” he said. “It’s a planning issue that should have been dealt with years ago.”
Coun. Orv Robson said the existing growth strategy in Summerland’s Official Community Plan has not worked for the community. Growth has averaged less than one per cent each year since 1996.
“It became apparent that changes had to be made to the OCP,” he said. He added that the new plan is a common-sense solution.
“This, in my view, is a win-win for everyone,” he said.
Coun. Robert Hacking said past community plans have been “unrealistic, unsustainable and unaffordable.”
“We need an area to grow our residential population that makes sense,” he said.
Coun. Peter Waterman said the quality of the land being added to the Agricultural Land Reserve under the plan is not as good as the land slated for exclusion.
He added that the public outcry against the plan had to be considered.
“There’s been heavy, reasoned opposition to the proposal,” he said.
Since December, the proposed growth plan has received much criticism from the public.
A petition by the Stop the Swap group has generated more than 3,000 signatures, including 1,500 from Summerlanders.
Those who have spoken out against the proposal have included developers, real estate professionals, business people and many more.
At the last public hearing on April 22, all but one of the speakers were opposed to the proposed plan.
Mayor Janice Perrino said the existing growth plan is “the worst example of sprawl there is.”
She said all members of council agreed a new plan was needed.
“I want Summerland to be the jewel of the valley,” she said.
She added that her role on council is to make the community better for the future, but the decision to approve the growth plan was not a popular decision.
Earlier, the Prairie Valley lands had been removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve to allow for the development of the proposed Summerland Hills Golf Resort.
The Summerland Hills plan was later abandoned and in the years following, no other development proposal has come forward for that area.
The growth plan has been the result of much public consultation.
For most of 2013, consultants held numerous public meetings and called for input on a growth strategy for the community.
The result, presented in early December, was the proposed plan.
Before the plan came before council, members of council and municipal staff had met with representatives from the Agricultural Land Commission to determine whether to proceed with a plan to remove agricultural land for urban growth.