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Plan to turn farmland into housing opposed by advisory planning body in Summerland

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Summerland's advisory planning commission doesn't support council's decision to remove more than 80 hectares of farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
At a meeting Friday morning in a packed chamber, the commission voted unanimously against endorsing council's plan to remove a large portion of land just north of downtown from the ALR in order to accommodate future housing developments.
Commission member Ken Haddrell said a recent study of local residents revealed their top priority is the economy and job creation.
"Orchards and wineries are by far the major economic driver of Summerland," said Haddrell. "When you take land out of the ALR, you remove jobs.
"This council thinks this is right. I myself think it's wrong. You can't tell me that taking land out of the ALR is supporting agriculture."
Haddrell also referenced carbon-emission reduction, mandated by the provincial government.
"There are millions of trees that are carbon sequesters, and yet they want to put in houses that use gas. It boggles my mind. This (staff) report looks like somebody's been asked to rationalize (the decision)."
Commission chairwoman Carla Ohmenzetter, who did not cast a vote due to her position as chair, appeared to be in agreement with council's decision and offered contrary arguments.
"It's very difficult for developers to do anything in this town, and we have to shake out of that," Ohmenzetter said. "We've got to start thinking smart and become a little more open-minded. Make it not so difficult for people to come to town hall and ask for things. Stop making it difficult for people who already own land here to become creative."
Linda Beaven, attending her first meeting since being appointed to the commission as the school board's representative, disagreed with staff member Julie McGuire. McGuire said a "balance" was made with replacing the land taken out of the ALR with new land.
"I don't see how you can say it's a balance when you're taking out No. 1 and 2 prime agricultural land and replacing it - and you're not really replacing it - with land that was once in the ALR that was designated as (No.) 5 and 6. It's not an exchange. It's not equal," Beaven said.
Haddrell and Tom Kinvig were the other commission members who voted against the removal of agricultural land.
Residents were invited to offer presentations of one minute or less. Of the 15 who spoke, all but two were opposed to having land taking out of the ALR.
"Land that is good for agriculture is good forever," said Erin Carlson, who began crying. "Our future is agriculture. Don't do this."
Resident Don Gayton noted there are numerous properties in his neighbourhood for sale and asked why there's such optimism that newly created lots would sell.
Real estate agent Mike Stoehler, one of the two in support of the change, said it would be a huge economic driver for Summerland.
"We're asking that developers, who have invested time and money into determining the suitability of subdividing and getting some of these properties on the market, that you give them some consideration. It's a very strange message," Stoehler said. "What am I supposed to say to developers and agricultural businesses?"
Council earlier voted 4-1 in favour of removing the land from the ALR. Coun. Peter Waterman was the lone councillor to vote against the change, and two others abstained due to conflict of interest. The matter will be back before council Feb. 11, with a public hearing scheduled for March 3.
In a separate motion, the commission voted in favour of reducing the urban growth boundary and exploring other developments outside of the ALR.

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