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Sicamous appeals for annual use of ALR land

Sicamous district council plans to put pressure on the Agriculture Land Commission to get around its application process to use local agricultural land for a motorcycle event.

Last year, the district submitted an application to the commission so that the community dog park, which is currently in the Agricultural Land Reserve, could be used for the Summer Stomp motorcycle rally and concert.

Anticipating this will be an annual event in Sicamous, district community planning officer Mike Marrs says the district is working with the ALC to figure out a way around having to make an annual application. He did not state the district is seeking to remove the land from the reserve.

In September, council met and raised the matter with Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm. In a Nov. 12 letter to council, Pimm states that in order to use ALR land for a non-farm use like music festivals, an application to the ALC must be made.

He said the B.C. government “does not have any involvement in individual applications or decisions made by the ALC.”

However, the minister goes on to say the province is currently undergoing a core review of all government agencies and activities, and that Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who is overseeing the review, has indicated the Agricultural Land Reserve will be a part of the review.

Pimm and Bennett recently came under fire when cabinet documents were leaked outlining a strategy to break up the ALR into two zones, one that would cover the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and the Okanagan, and a northern zone where the Oil and Gas Commission would play a greater role in ALR land removal applications.

District administrator Heidi Frank told council the news has prompted division among local governments – those calling for greater protection of the ALC, and those wanting change.

There is a similar division among Sicamous councillors.

“Being a new councillor, I’m not sure what the previous view is, but I like the ALC,” commented Suzanne Carpenter.

“I know how it works and I think I’m probably not with everybody here, but boy, we have to protect our lands, because we need food in the future, we need food for our children, we need a stable industry. If we didn’t have this, half those orchards would be sold off.”

Coun. Don Richardson was of a different mindset, saying the commission is more of a hinderance than good.

“Up in the hills where I live with a bunch of rocks, that is not farmland,” said Richardson. “And yet, I’m compelled by a whole lot of bureaucratic dumbness to comply with this stuff. What we are saying is you guys need to revisit your boundaries. Because way back in whatever, they just took a map and made a bunch of lines and said, ‘this is ALR.’”

Coun. Terry Rysz agreed with Richardson on the need for a review of the ALR. Speaking specifically to Sicamous’ situation, he recommended council send a delegation to meet with the minister to reiterate the district’s concerns.

Coun. Fred Busch said what the district is asking isn’t necessarily going to take the dog park out of the land commission.

“All we’re asking is if we can have this music festival… the Stomp, on those premises,” said Busch. “That is not necessarily saying that in the future, this land couldn’t once again go back to growing corn or alfalfa or whatever crops that it used to have. I think there is that difference… we’re not going to be putting up houses or paving it over, at least I assume that’s not what we’re going to be doing, paving it over.”

 

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