A debate over development of an 11-acre Murrayville farm site came to an end Monday with its final approval by Langley Township council, 21 years after the owners first applied to build housing on two agricultural properties near 216 Street and 44 Avenue.
The matter ended up in court when the regional Metro Vancouver authority said the proposal, known as the “Hendricks et al” development, violated regional growth strategy limits and sued the Township.
Metro also sued Langley over two other housing developments it said were beyond the power of the municipality to approve; the University District and the Wall farm projects near Trinity Western.
In March of this year, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma dismissed the Metro lawsuit and upheld the approval of all three projects.
Sharma said the Metro regional growth strategy, which aims to control urban growth, was only guidelines expressing policy, not enforceable laws.
That cleared the way for final approval of the Hendricks development, 21 residential lots with a 15-metre landscape “buffer” to be built between the new homes and the protected farmland to the south.
The Hendricks et al properties used to be part of the protected land within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), but the provincial agency in charge of the ALR, the Agricultural Land Commission, approved its exclusion after several applications by the owners in 1993, 2003 and 2009.
At the Monday evening Township council meeting, there was one last debate before the vote.
Councillors Michelle Sparrow and David Davis were the only voices raised against the proposal.
“This just sets a precedent, and shows that that if you try hard enough and ask enough times and spend enough money, that eventually you will be able to develop your agricultural lands,” Sparrow said.
Davis said the Township could lose “thousands of acres” of farmland if more buffers are allowed.
“Stop cutting farmland out,” Davis said.
Councillor Charlie Fox was among the majority who voted for the proposal, saying the land, a former horse training facility, was “unfarmable” in part because it is located next to an urban residential neighbourhood.
Councillor Kim Richter said the “agricultural quality of the land is not high” and pending changes to provincial agricultural laws make buffers “absolutely critical” to reduce conflict between urban residents and farmers.
Councillor Bev Dornan said the site was a “perfect spot” for a buffer that would protect both the rural and urban communities.
Councillor Steve Ferguson said he was “looking forward to this thing finally being resolved” after so much time.
Mayor Jack Froese said it was time to “see that this chapter is closed and we move on.”
However, there will be at least one more round of legal wrangling.
In April, Metro Vancouver applied to the B.C. Court of Appeal to overturn the Supremo Court decisions on the Hendricks, University District and Wall developments.
The hearing of the Metro court challenge is scheduled for Dec. 8, 9 and 10 at the Court of Appeal in Vancouver.