(Received from a local citizen, 22-Feb-2011)
Comments on Revised Regional Growth Strategy Plan:
1. The new Metro Vancouver Plan will increase the power of municipalities and seriously compromise the ability of Metro—and the ALC—to protect our green spaces and agricultural lands, leading to decreased sustainability and urban sprawl throughout the region.
- With only a 2/3 majority Metro vote (or 51% in some instances) required to approve alternate land uses and a municipality eager to convert agricultural land and green space for industrial/commercial/residential development, there will be increased pressure on the ALC and Metro to allow land exclusions from the ALR and the green zone; more exclusions will occur.
- Amending the green zone gave municipal governments more control over development and this plan will increase municipal powers even more and lead to decreased livability and lack of sustainability in the region.
- Less control over development by Metro will lead to development in environmentally sensitive areas.
- A few years back, an Environmentally Sensitive Areas mapping project was undertaken in Maple Ridge. The completed project did not gain the support of the majority of council.
2. There is no Urban Reserve designation in the Regional Plan. Everything that was previously in the Maple Ridge Urban Reserve has been mapped as Urban. This creates zoning misconceptions and leads to premature development and urban sprawl.
Protection of Agricultural lands and green spaces should trump the right of municipalities to develop outside existing urban boundaries.
3. “Special Study Areas” are without doubt the first step in removing land from the ALR or the Green Zone for urbanization/development.
- There will be an increase in the number of requests for amendments and land use changes in “special study areas”. This is already happening in Maple Ridge.
- A couple of years ago the ALC turned down an application to remove land from the ALR for development in Albion Flats. In the new Metro Vancouver Plan, this area has been designated as a “special study area”. Maple Ridge has already held charettes, discussions and studies into development of the area. Furthermore, the ALC has now offered Maple Ridge Council an opportunity to submit development options to the ALC. Four options were suggested, but the majority of council has voted to forward those that involve significant commercial development.
4. Directing growth to frequent transit development corridors could lead to ALR exclusions and destruction of green space, particularly when new roads are being built across present agricultural lands and green spaces.
- Example: The area along the recently built Abernethy Connector in Maple Ridge. This road was built across agricultural land. Pressure to develop on surrounding agricultural land increased after the Connector was built. In this area last year, an application to remove a large tract of quality agricultural land was forwarded to the ALC. Although the application was denied, there is no doubt that another proposal will be presented to Maple Ridge council.
5. This plan does nothing to stop land speculation. Speculation increases sprawl, sprawl increases the demand for roads, roads increase speculation and sprawl….
- If cheap land was not available to councils and tougher restrictions were in place, planners and councils would be forced to plan more carefully and creatively.
6. Rapid transit in outlying areas should not be based on present population if these areas are to house and employ significant increases in population. Unless rapid transit precedes population growth, more roads and commercial development over green spaces (employment generating lands/residential requirements) will occur to bring population to the area. Roads are the antithesis of sustainable development.
7. Climate change has not been adequately addressed when considering sustainability:
It is impossible to develop strategies needed to address climate change—protection of agricultural land, the environment, local food production, peak oil, etc. without dealing with underlying problems associated with growth—consumerism, land speculation, regulations on land use…
8. Lack of accountability:
A general statement of council consensus provides a skewed perspective.