Committees choose sides on South Canoe property acquisition

Two City of Salmon Arm committees came to a decision on whether to support the city’s application to the ALC

Two City of Salmon Arm committees came to a decision on whether to support the city’s application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for non-farm  use of the former South Canoe school property.

But the Agricultural Advisory Committee and the city’s Development and Planning Committee reached opposite conclusions.

City council approved funds for the purchase of the property at their Aug. 8 meeting with the stated goal of relocating the city’s public works yard there in the future.

The city’s purchase of the property from School District #83 is contingent on non-farm use being granted by the ALC.

“The idea of putting a public works yard on agricultural land is wrong. The idea number two of putting it in a rural, residential area is wrong,” said John McLeod of the city’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, who voted unanimously against supporting the ALC application at their Aug. 31 meeting.

McLeod advocates for preserving the area’s agricultural value, possibly for an agricultural training facility. He was also concerned about the increased industrial traffic.

“There’s not a lot of logic going into this. It’s going into a rural residential neighbourhood, the roads will have to be upgraded. It’s going to completely change the neighbourhood,” said McLeod.

When asked how much influence the Agricultural Advisory Committee’s recommendation might have on city council’s decision, McLeod said the city has followed their recommendations about half the time.

Coun. Ken Jamieson, who usually acts as chair of the Agricultural Advisory Committee did not attend the meeting because he is a school district employee and, as such, has a conflict of interest.

The issue of the city’s application to the ALC also came up at the Development and Planning Services Committee meeting on Sept. 6.

All six city councilors, as well as Mayor Nancy Cooper, usually sit on the Development and Planning Services Committee, but both Jamieson and Coun. Alan Harrison were not present at the meeting because they are school district employees.

The committee voted to authorize the submission to the ALC, with only Coun. Tim Lavery in opposition.

Lavery said the decision regarding the South Canoe property is one of the most difficult he has faced in his time on council and stressed the importance of balancing long-term goals for the city and the concerns of residents.

“I think from the city perspective this property would benefit the long-term interests of the city. From the neighbourhood perspective I think the neighbourhood comments are legitimate  and, on the balance, I’ve changed my mind. I prefer the arguments of the neighbourhood,” said Lavery.

Coun. Chad Eliason spoke in defence of the application to the ALC due to it’s proximity to the nearby gravel pits but acknowledged the use of the area for recreation as well.

“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to buy properties. This one here, we thought was expensive for agricultural land but it’s a good location and a good value for the community going forward,” he said.

Eliason  said although a public works yard would be the stated use on the application to the ALC, the site could be used for another community amenity until  plans for the new works yard are finalized, or longer if a better location for the works yard is identified.

Cooper said she turned down suggestions for moving the works yard to the industrial park instead of South Canoe because she believes it would tie up already scarce industrial land and inhibit industrial development.

City Council will make a final decision about whether or not to submit the application to the ALC at their Sept. 12 meeting.