EDITORIAL: Let’s get clear on value of ALR land

In an area focused on residential development, is loss of ALR to SD62 okay?

The surging population growth on the West Shore, especially in Langford, long ago prompted the Sooke School District to get working on securing sites for new schools.

The Gazette recently determined that one of the sites SD62 is looking at, as part of its capital funding request to the Education Ministry for its expansion, involves a pair of properties at Latoria and Happy Valley roads in Langford.

Geographically, the site appears perfectly situated for the location of a new middle school and possibly an elementary school. But both properties are in the agricultural land reserve and would have to be removed to even be considered for approval by the ministry.

The City of Langford, ever conscious of providing services for its residents, wants to see schools built there and is applying to the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission for their removal for that use. These properties were previously rejected as part of a combined application, but the City and school district are optimistic the ALC will have a change of heart given the specific intended use.

People protested Langford’s previous request for removal of lands from the ALR, but no one turned up at the 10 a.m. weekday meeting where the Latoria lands were discussed. That would seem to indicate a lack of public concern.

Nonetheless, while the land is not being farmed at the moment, and would likely be developed upon otherwise if it were removed, once it’s gone, it can never be replaced.

Langford council has spoken before of replacing removed ALR land with land purchased by the City for the purpose of community farming, but we don’t see that happening, not in a jurisdiction that has long since shifted its focus from agriculture to residential development.

Sacrificing ALR lands for urban sprawl is never a good long-term strategy. And the fact SD62 is considering ALR lands in Langford shows it has few other options.

At the very least, any removal of these properties should come with an agreement that mandates the creation of a section of farmable land on site to be used for education, or more.

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