Metro Vancouver Pushes Back on Secret Land Deal in Delta Which Would See 600 Acres of Farmland Converted to Port Use


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on Metro Vancouver’s reaction to news of a secretive deal orchestrated by the Emerson Real Estate Group to buy 600 acress of prime farmland in South Delta and convert it to rail yards and other uses connected with the expansion of Deltaport. The story was broken this week by Independent MLA for the region, Vicki Huntington. (April 5, 2012)

The battle to save Metro Vancouver’s agricultural land is heating up, with regional officials pushing back at the potential loss of 600 acres of prime south Delta farmland for port expansion.

Directors at Metro’s environment committee Wednesday agreed unanimously to have staff investigate an option-to-purchase agreement for the active farm land, which is now in the Agricultural Land Reserve but is tagged for a logistics and rail yard for the province’s Gateway Project.

Metro directors argued Wednesday that the 11 parcels of farmland, between Highway 17 and Deltaport Way are protected by the ALR, are not zoned for industrial use, and are earmarked as green space in Metro’s Regional Growth Strategy.

The opposition voiced by Metro directors Wednesday may well be at odds with the province’s plans to expand port operations in Delta and increase road and transportation routes for goods.

Lawrence Frank, Bombardier chair at the University of B.C., said the situation comes down to a trade-off between health and quality of life versus preserving agricultural land and there should be a special plan in place to determine where and why expansion is happening in a certain area.

He noted Metro Vancouver is affected locally by a national objective to move goods and supply the economy and Deltaport has been tagged as the gateway for good movements. Having logistics facilities next to Deltaport, he added, would create health benefits for the region because goods would not need to be trucked across the Port Mann Bridge and Knight Street, reducing traffic congestion and impact on residential areas.

“We have to be very careful of the loss of any agricultural land at this point; it’s critical,” said Frank. “But there’s a need to deal with competing interests and regional planning around logistic and goods impacts.

“Our local economy benefits from being a port city. We’re going to have to take the good with the bad.”

Metro directors insist there are alternatives. They also suggested staff examine the possibility of barging containers from wharfs in Surrey, New Westminster and Port Rupert.

“It’s a real blow against agriculture when that much land is taken out,” warned Richmond Coun. Harold Steves, vice-chairman of the committee.

Directors argue the regional district has already lost thousands of acres of farmland to senior government developments such as the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty settlement and the provincial government’s Gateway Project, which includes the four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road — a 40-kilometre transportation route that would run along the south side of the Fraser River from Highway 1, around Port Kells in Surrey to Deltaport Way in South Delta.

The provincial government claims the Gateway Project will reduce truck traffic and increase the movement of goods and services throughout the region.

The BC Gateway Transportation Strategy, released earlier this week, also supports private-sector investments in new “transload” and integrated logistics facilities, along with $2-billion in improvements to the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2.