Petition launched to stop land plan

A petition is circulating with a request that 87 hectares near the core of the community remain in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

A petition is circulating with a request that 87 hectares near the core of the community remain in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The petition was launched online last week and within hours, more than 100 people had added their names to it.

Summerland’s proposed Urban Growth Plan calls for the removal of 87 hectares from the land reserve to accommodate future growth in the community.

The petition states that it is important to protect agricultural land in the community and in the province.

“The decisions we make now concerning our agricultural land are ones we are going to have to live with — once the land is gone, we don’t get it back. The long term benefits of protecting farm land now are benefits that extend beyond our community into our region, province, and beyond. The notion of moving agri-businesses into Prairie Valley lands is great, but there is no reason to do it at the expense of highly productive land,” the petition states.

Erin Carlson, who created the campaign, said the initial goal is to gather 1,300 names. This is the same as the number of people who participated in the various public meetings, workshops and surveys for the municipality’s future growth strategy.

The second goal is for 11,000 signatures, or the same as the entire population of Summerland.

The results will be presented at a public hearing on the growth plan, tentatively scheduled for March 3.

Carlson believes this is enough time to gather many signatures online. In addition, volunteers will canvas the community so those who do not use the Internet can add their names to the petition.

Those who add their names to the online petition must include their name, e-mail address and postal code.

Despite the support for the petition, Carlson questions whether the result will alter the growth plan.

“I still don’t think council will listen to us but I hope the Agricultural Land Commission will listen to us,” she said.

Before the growth plan can be adopted, it must receive approval from the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, since it involves the removal of land from the land reserve.

Mayor Janice Perrino said any petition presented to council is taken seriously, even if council does not act on the request in a petition.

”It is always recorded as a document on file,” she said.

She added that those who sign a petition should be commended for adding their voice to the discussion on the growth plan.

“They have a belief in a direction,” she said. “Good on them for standing up for this.”

Petitions will force a council to reconsider a proposed course of action, she said.

At present, staff at the municipal planning department are preparing a draft document of the land use plan. This plan will then go to the Advisory Planning Commission. Municipal council is expected to give first reading to the plan at the Feb. 11 council meeting.

Before the plan can be adopted, a public hearing must be held and the plan must then receive approval from the land commission.

The petition can be found online at http://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/save-summerland-s-agricultural-land-stop-the-swap?source=facebook-share-button&time=1389116371.