Fox fears decision may be ‘tip of the iceberg’

Trinity Western University wants land to expand campus

The Omelaniec property is one of three parcels of land that has received conditional approval to be removed from the ALR.

The Omelaniec property is one of three parcels of land that has received conditional approval to be removed from the ALR.

The Agricultural Land Commission has conditionally approved Trinity Western University’s application to exclude three parcels within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The land covers 13.59 acres on the north and south side of Labonte Crescent on Glover Road, opposite the entrance to the independent Christian university.

The decision was released on April 1, the same day that the ALC approved the consolidation of three parcels at 23712 – 56 Ave., and 5585 and 5559 238 St., and the subdivision of these parcels, 18.4 acres in total, into 16 one-acre lots. The applicants are Sam Omelaniec and two other neighbours.

Trinity’s application was made with the Township, which supports the reason for TWU’s application, which is to expand the campus and keep a viable school in the municipality.

Future development would require the construction of a public road extending 80 Avenue to Labonte Crescent and providing a secondary entrance to the university. Approximately 55 acres still in the ALR will be used for agricultural and environmental research and development programs. A smaller parcel will be used for parkland and outdoor classrooms.

The ALC set out a number of conditions, including fencing and vegetative buffer.

The ALC said in a report that the proposed 80 Avenue extension will have an adverse impact on prime farmland unless it is built alongside Highway 1.

The commissioners concluded that the majority of the land in TWU’s application “is not suitable for agricultural use; that sections of land fronting Labonte Crescent and Glover Road, and which are to stay within the reserve, are “steep, riparian land and is not suitable for agricultural use.”

It added: “The proposal, if approved, has the potential to impact neighbouring agriculture land unless fencing is installed and vegetative buffers are planted.”

Among the conditions imposed are a vegetative and buffering plan; a covenant that fences and buffers cannot be removed without the consent of the ALC.

The Omelaniec application was filed along with neighbours Jody and Charles Shaw, and Sharon Russell. One of the conditions of approval is that their properties must connect to municipal water and sewer services, and the subdivision must be completed within three years.

The ALC said that if sewage is not discharged into a public system, a treatment facility “cannot under any circumstance contaminate the Hopington aquifer.”

Councillor Charlie Fox was the only member of council who did not support the Omelaniec application a year ago. On Tuesday, he said he was concerned because the Omelaniec property itself is a functioning agricultural operation (a Christmas tree farm), and its location at the top of the 56 Avenue escarpment places it over the vulnerable Hopington aquifer.

He noted that while the one-acre zoning is already allowed under the Township’s bylaws, the ALC’s decision will open the floodgates to more requests for subdivision.

“I feel that this might be the tip of the iceberg in terms of other properties which have similar zoning wanting to develop,” Fox said, noting that unless municipal water and services are provided, more water will be drawn from the aquifer.

“We are going to see a flood of applications from this area,” Fox said.

This will bring pressure on the Township to extend water and sewer services to the Salmon River Uplands, he cautioned.

Three other applications rejected

At the same time that it approved the Trinity Western University exclusion request and the Omelaniec application to consolidate and subdivide, the Agricultural Land Commission rejected three others.

These were:

• to exclude from the Agricultural Land Reserve eight properties totaling 36 acres at 5670 – 264  Street, and 26477, 26473, 26475, 26473, 26575, 26601, 26695 and 26713 – 56 Ave. These properties are next to Gloucester Industrial Estates;

• to subdivide within the ALR one rural parcel of 53.1 acres at 7201 – 216 St., into two lots. This property is on the base of the Milner escarpment, west of Glover Road.

• to subdivide within the ALR two rural lots totaling 19.90 acres into seven residential parcels at 23015 and 23047 – 76A Ave. This property lies on the northwest corner of 76A Avenue and 232 Street, north of the Highway 1 interchange.

Township council supported all three applications. The ALC’s rejection of the first and third listed above was a reconfirmation of earlier rejections.

One application being keenly watched involves the former Tuscan Farm Gardens, an echinacea and lavender farm at 24453-60 Ave.

The application for the 80.5 acres was filed by Lorad Enterprises Inc., of that address. The registered owners are Gar William Campbell and Lavender Hills Holdings. Inc. The current zoning is one acre residential.

The application is to rezone the land into two parcels of approximately 35.8 and 42.5 acres, with a residential development of up to 65 houses proposed for the larger parcel. The overall density would be 0.8 units per acre.

Almost 19 acres are environmentally significant and will be preserved as natural open space, if the application is approved. A tributary of Coghlan Creek flows through the property.

The Tuscan Farm owners have an agreement with Krause Berry Farms to make their (Tuscan’s) property more agriculturally viable on the land that is not part of the subdivision application to the ALC.

This application is not for exclusion from the land reserve, but subdivision within it. It is also not the first to be filed for this property.

In 1993, an application to subdivide the land into four 20-acre parcels was turned down by the ALC, and subsequent requests have also been rejected, the most recent of which was in 2000.

The property lies above the Hopington aquifer, an underground reservoir that supplies water to thousands of residents, as well as farms and businesses.

In 1995, concerned about the quality of the water, its susceptibility to contamination and the unregulated extraction of water, the Township of the day imposed a moratorium on subdivisions above the aquifer.

Despite numerous applications to subdivide, the moratorium remains in effect today.