Objection to farm land being removed from the ALR

A few facts need to be put straight regarding Cawston Cold Storage’s (CCS) application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to change the use of almost six acres of top quality farm land in Cawston into non-farm use to allow them to build a controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facility.

Dear Editor

A few facts need to be put straight regarding Cawston Cold Storage’s (CCS) application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to change the use of almost six acres of top quality farm land in Cawston into non-farm use to allow them to build a controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facility.

Contrary to what the CCS representative may have told the Area Planning Committee (APC) meeting, we understand that due to recent changes in the tree fruit industry there is presently an oversupply of controlled atmosphere storage in the immediate area with spare capacity in Keremeos, Penticton and Oliver. The facility in Keremeos is a direct competitor for CCS and this perhaps may be the reason why they are not keen to continue to allow CCS to use their facility?

The process by which a recommendation was made by the Area B Planning Committee (APC) which endorsed this application was deeply flawed. Information received from Chief Administrative Officer of the RDOS Bill Newell suggests that the APC should never have reviewed this application. Mr. Newell has stated that the only formal role that the RDOS and satellite bodies like the APC has in a non-farm use application to the ALC is to advise the ALC whether an application contravenes any local legislation, not to provide an endorsement or other opinion.

Furthermore the issue of conflict of interest of two or more of the APC members was misrepresented by Area B’s Director in his comments to The Review. The BC Community Charter, which is the legislation governing RDOS decisions, states that a conflict of interest arises when one member has “a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the matter, or another interest in the matter that constitutes a conflict of interest”.

We understand that one member of the APC distributes their entire apple production through CCS and constitutes almost 25% of CCS total volume. It would appear that this member, according to the legislation, clearly has an interest in endorsing an application of a major business partner.

The statement made by the CCS representative that there is no alternative site available to construct the facility can be seen to be incorrect simply by reading the Real Estate advertisements in this week’s copy of the Review or checking the MLS listings. There would appear to be at least three alternative sites currently available which would not result in the loss of prime agriculture land.

The fact that these sites may not be right next door to CCS’s facility in Cawston and the piece of agricultural land they wish to build on definitely is, may perhaps the be the true business reason behind this application? It was stated at the APC meeting and reported in The Review that the parcel in Cawston which they have applied to remove from farm use was already for sale, but we understand that the owners were in fact actively sought by CCS.

A concerned group of Cawston residents is determined to fight this application to the ALC. Our next step is to petition local residents to advise the ALC that they are adamantly opposed to this application. The ALC will take this into account when they consider their decision. We have been advised by an ALC representative that CCS has been putting pressure on the ALC to decide on this matter outside their normal channels because the deadline for their option on this parcel of land expires on 31 August.

A blog has been set-up where residents can sign an online petition against this application which can be accessed at cawstonlandandcommunity.blogspot.com. For those readers who do not use the internet we will be mailing all residents in Area B – so please look at your flyers carefully before throwing them out. The petition will be available adjacent to the Cawston Store on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings of this week from 4 p.m. onwards.

In closing we would like readers to know that we are supportive of CCS and recognise they are an extremely valuable part of our community. We do however strongly object to a parcel of top quality farm land being removed from the ALR, and consider the proposed location in Cawston is entirely unsuitable and will present a safety risk on an already dangerous junction. This industrial development will have a significant negative impact on the community in general.

 

Jim Bagley; Jenny Edlington; Moses Brown; Eric and Jen Ditmars.