Holding the line: the value of agricultural land in Delta, BC

Author/s:  Teresa Hanson

Creation date: 2010

Contact info: tehanson@telus.net

Senior supervisor:  Meg Holden

Keywords:  Farmland conversion, Agricultural land protection, Urban growth containment, Agricultural Land Reserve, Green Zone, Agricultural land values, Public values

Geographic focus: Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: In Delta, do public values and rationales for protecting agricultural land support existing regulation protecting agricultural land? What are the implications for protecting agricultural land and regional growth management?

Significance

Agricultural land is a key natural asset in Metro Vancouver and much of it is included in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), under the management of the Agricultural Land Commission. However, the number of applications for land use changes or exclusions from the ALR demonstrates the ongoing local residential growth pressures on agricultural land. The author investigated an exclusion application, submitted by the Tsawwassen Golf and Country Club (TGCC) in January 2007, as a case study. TGCC applied for land within Delta’s municipal boundaries to be excluded from the ALR and from Metro Vancouver’s “green zone,” so that the TGCC could expand its golf course and build housing on that land. The TGCC’s application also required an amendment to Delta’s Official Community Plan. The application, eventually granted, was one of the first to amend Metro Vancouver’s Livable Region Strategic Plan and to remove land from the green zone. The author analyzed public submissions to the three government bodies involved in reviewing the application as a means to better understanding public values and rationales for protecting agricultural land.

Findings

The public opinion analyzed for this research project indicates that current public values and social norms continue to support the resource management-based approach to land use management enshrined in legislation. The arguments presented during the public consultation process show that those both for and against the application wanted to see the land used to its best capability. The research also illustrates that agricultural land can be seen through a variety of lenses and put to a variety of purposes. The author concluded that existing regulation continues to protect the agricultural use of agricultural land but has not yet adequately addressed its other economic, environmental or social purposes.