Arithmetic took me back to the archives. There I was surprised to find, among a pile of dusty newspapers, something that contradicted much of what Ithought I knew about Lot 450.
As a relative newcomer to the community I’ve come to love, learning the following just…well, it just breaks my heart.
What arithmetic? The issue was that I couldn’t make sense of a 2006 Powell River Peakstory that mentioned, in passing, that 112 hectares had been excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) “10 years ago”…
Since it’s pretty hard to hide 112 hectares in an area the size of Powell River, I first imagined that the article must have been referring to the “old golf course” or the “lower section of Block 55”. But those land parcels just weren’t the right size, so my numbers weren’t adding up. So where on earth was it?
Turns out that it referred to that entire section of land where I spent so much time in May. The very place where a group of brave souls faced down a feller-buncher. The spot where some Powell Riverites gained national attention over the idea that maintaining some urban forest around might be a wise thing to do. Simply put, what many know as “Lot 450” used to be part of the ALR.
This is old news, of course, but what happened in 1994 and later may provide some new context with which to understand current plans, which will have repercussions for lands that were initially cataloged to preserve farmland.
As they say, the devil is in the details…
A brief history of the ALR in Powell River
(Click on any image to start a full-screen slide show)
Most of the ALR lands within the Regional District lay outside municipal boundaries, as you can see here.
Within city limits, there are only a few scattered parcels, totaling 555 hectares (1,371 acres), which encompass about 18% of the land area. Funny thing about this map; when I first plotted them I thought the boundaries seemed odd…why would only these particular blocks have been chosen back in 1975-1976 when the Agricultural Land Reserve system was first created?
All of which made sense when I happened upon this. I think the correct way to describe my reaction was gobsmacked. P.S: in other news of the day, people were complaining about rising ferry costs, and the urgent need to replace Canada’s aging fleet of Sea King helicopters…
So now it became clear. This is what the original ALR lands looked like within the Municipality. They total 669 ha (1,653 acres), or about 22% of the land area. Also shown here is the area of J.P. Rithet’s 1878 purchase of Lot 450, which still reminds me of Bart Simpson…
There are some interesting things about the 1994 exclusion. First, the landowner (MacMillan Bloedel Ltd) was the applicant. Second, it was the Corporation of the District of Powell River (i.e., the City) that made the determination that these lands were “community needed” for light industry and residential housing. Note that the exclusion includes an area slated for senior’s housing on the hospital side of Joyce Ave.
Fast forward to 2006, when the City applies to have an additional 343 ha (847 acres) excluded in support of the highly imaginative “pecuniary-spelled-backwards” Yrainucep proposal for “a new international airport, an 80-room hotel, a convention centre, three restaurants, a golf course, tennis courts, an equestrian centre and a nature park, in addition to fairway, oceanview, oceanfront, and taxiway home sites.” This made the Agricultural Land Commission sit up and take notice, visit Powell River, and firmly say, uh…no thanks. – And that 112 ha that was excluded from the ALR in 1994? Well, now it’s owned by Island Timberlands (since 2005) and managed under the new PMFL Council (since 2004).
The PRSC joint venture finally got underway in 2006, and two ALR-related things happened shortly thereafter. The first was the 2009 sale of an 8 acre parcel adjacent to the ALR (indeed the access road appears to overlap it). The second was the 2010 sale of a 30 acre then-forested parcel in Block 36, which remains in the ALR to this day (although it was clearcut in 2003). Finally, for interest, the orange polygons reflect some of the harvest on the adjacent (ex-ALR) PMFL lands by Island Timberlands in 2009. This image is from 2011, so does not show the 2015 harvest.
Next up are ALR lands presently for sale, or sold subject to exclusion from the ALR. These include A) the remaining portion of the Block 36 ALR parcel, which is presently for sale by Catalyst, and B) the 132 parcel sold to Sino Bright, who plan to build a school there. Note: plotted values are those of the ALR portion only; in both cases the legal parcels are larger.
I’ve not yet seen any applications to the ALR Commission, so my estimates may be inaccurate. BUT… if all the pending sales are contingent upon exclusions, the remaining ALR lands within the municipality would comprise small parcels around the Wildwood sewage lagoon, the airport, and within Upper Millennium Park. My estimate is about 420 ha (1,040 acres), or about 13.8% of the land area. That represents a loss of 37.2% of what was initially designated as ALR.