What impact will the ALC audit have on Pemberton?

B.C.’s Auditor General released a bombshell of a report last week, stating that the Agricultural Land Commission, which administers land in which agriculture is a priority use, doesn’t have nearly enough resources to fulfill its mandate.

Among other things, the report demonstrates that the ALC’s budget has been slashed since 2002/2003, going from $2,930,000 to $2,080,000 in 2010/2011. It also notes that there aren’t nearly enough resources or controls going into its compliance system. That the report recommends fines for non-compliance suggests to me they don’t currently exist in any significant number.

All very salient points – but I’m most intrigued by the report’s top recommendation:

“We recommend that the commission ensure that ALR boundaries are accurate and include land that is both capable of and suitable for agricultural use.”

The audit comes around to this point after noting that not all land within the Agricultural Land Reserve may actually be suitable for agricultural use.

It reads on page 10:

“…some land that is neither capable of nor suitable for farming – for example, a hillside or steep ravine – may have been included within the ALR while other land that is capable of and suitable for farming may not have been.”

I found this a very interesting point when I began composing a story about the report, a story that has yet to come to fruition. Interesting, because it conjures memories of the GEMS school planned for Pemberton when it came before the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

GEMS is an international company that plans to put a private school in Pemberton. Residents there see it as an economic boon for a community that doesn’t have big opportunities coming along very often. It will presumably bring students from around the world to study in Pemberton and possibly hire locals for various positions at the facility.

The school is planned for a property on the Pemberton Hillside that has some agricultural capability, although most people see the site as a rock bluff. It thus had to go before the SLRD before it approached the ALC with a non-farm use application that would allow the school to be built there.

When it came before the SLRD, proponents noted that only sections of the property had major agricultural capability, while others, further up the hillside, had less.

The GEMS school ultimately got a non-farm use permit from the ALC, but it makes you wonder: are there other hillside properties in Pemberton that lie within the Agricultural Land Reserve? And should they? And is the ALC considering a review that could alter Pemberton’s agricultural boundaries?

I tried to follow up on this today. I called the commission’s executive director to ask whether it’s considering a review of ALR boundaries, but I have yet to hear back. I’ll try back next week.

I spoke also to a property owner in Pemberton who owns a site with agricultural portions along the hillside. I asked him whether he knew of any other properties that had the same specifications. He said he didn’t know of any.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t yet have a story that stems from the ALC report. There will be a story if I discover that the ALC is looking to review the reserve’s boundaries, with the possibility of areas in Pemberton being included or excluded.

I’ll keep trying, but in the meanwhile I’m open to tips.

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About jesseferreras

Sea to Sky-based journalist. Snowboarder, cyclist, cinephile, bon vivant.
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