Committee did not support removal of ALR lands

Members voiced that there is desirability in increasing the density of the downtown but by infill of existing housing areas.

Dear Editor:

Re Summerland ALR land Removal

I have attended all the public hearings, replied to all surveys and read all the information I could about this issue.  I also was a member of Summerland’s Climate Action Committee for both phases; deciding on Summerland’s climate action plan which was incorporated into the Official Community Plan and its implementation phase for the last two years.

As part of that group, we set out some goals to ensure Summerland’s environmental sustainability.  I disagree with how the council and staff are characterizing this removal of land as more sustainable.

There was never in either phase a suggestion by the SCAC that we trade off farmland for savings of greenhouse gas emissions by building on agricultural land close to town. In both phases there was a recognition that at the heart of sustainability is our ability to feed our population from local produce.

The cost of importing food from afar (from a greenhouse consumption point of view) is far higher than any gains achieved by building on the ALR land close to town.

In many meetings, members voiced that there is desirability in increasing the density of the downtown but by infill of existing housing areas rather than removal of agricultural land.

Two members of our SCAC committee, Coun. Lloyd Christopherson and Don Hudgeon, should have openly declared their conflict of interest in 2009 with respect to this removal of ALR land and sitting on this committee (which made recommendations to council about sustainability and its affects on the OCP.)

As a professional accountant, I also find it erroneous that ALR land removal is characterized as bringing further revenue to the municipality’s coffers.

With the municipality’s costs of infrastructure, etc. for new housing higher by 20 per cent than the revenue it will generate, this removal of ALR land will not solve any of the fiscal difficulties that Summerland is in.

By far, it would have been better that Summerland reined in its inflated capital expenditures over the last few years, such as the Wharton Street project with its $1,000,000 sunk cost, the $1,000,000 overage on street improvements and the additional premium paid to construct a deluxe police station which could have cost us significantly less.

We have a small population and these items saddled the community with significant debt.

Our council did not listen to the residents when they opposed these proposals either! I moved back to Summerland for the same reason as most of us: to enjoy the rural, natural environment.

Council has a fiduciary duty to act for its residents rather assuming they know what is best for the community or act in their own personal interest.

Margaret Holler