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Brunswick Point land subdivision request irks council
Delta council expressed concern Monday evening regarding a provincial application for small piece of agricultural land on Brunswick Point referred to as the "wedge parcel."
The 1.67 hectare (four acre) site formerly occupied by the Brunswick Cannery is currently owned by the province and surrounded by Canoe Pass to the north and sandwiched by productive farmland to the east and west, producing a slice of land resembling a pizza wedge.
The province wants to subdivide the parcel, which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve but not being farmed, into two lots–the foreshore which would be environmentally protected and remain under ownership of the province, and the uplands portion, which would be sold. A restrictive covenant would be placed on title that would prevent development.
But since the Tsawwassen First Nation have first right of refusal on the sale of the second lot, council is skeptical the covenant would hold any power whatsoever.
"I smell a rat," said Coun. Sylvia Bishop. "There's something not right, it feels uncomfortable and therefore I would concur that additional information is required before any comfortable decision could be made by council."
Paton said the restrictive covenant on development isn't worth anything if the land is sold to TFN.
"If it was fee simple land owned by a Delta farmer I'm sure the covenant would hold tight, but if the land is sold to TFN are you telling me that the development covenant would still stand up?"
Jeff Sheldrake, manager of Crown Land Opportunities from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, said the province has been in discussion with TFN over sale of the property and conceded the restrictive covenant would be useless if the parcel was absorbed into the treaty lands.
"I mean, this thing just stinks to high heaven," said Paton.
The parcel in question was originally Crown land granted to farmers in 1881, and adjacent agricultural lands have been farmed by the current lessees and their families since that time. But the wedge parcel was expropriated back by the province in 1968 as part of the Roberts Bank Back Up lands initiative.
One of the families that lost the parcel to expropriation would like to buy the land back, but TFN would have the right to make the first offer and match any others.
Council was also concerned that TFN could purchase the property at the appraised value of agricultural land and then develop houses on it at a much greater return on the investment.
"With this piece of property, talking about a covenant is not worth the time we're wasting on it," said Coun. Bruce McDonald. "Because there's no chance you would buy this and not remove the impediments to doing what you want to do."
McDonald said TFN could purchase the property, remove it from the ALR by making it part of their treaty lands, and then council would be powerless to prevent any changes.
"Frankly, I saw that rodent running around, too."
The provincial Agricultural Land Commission approved the proposed subdivision on July 17, 2013, which angered Paton. He said the mandate of the ALC is to consolidate agricultural parcels, not subdivide them.
"If a farmer in Delta, or anywhere in B.C., came forward and said I'd like to split my four acre agricultural piece into two parcels they'd laugh you right out of the room," he said.
If Delta council approves the application, the site would continue to be designated as agricultural in the Official Community Plan, requiring any future owner to make an application to change that designation before any development could go ahead. Should the parcel be acquired by TFN, however, those restrictions would become null and void.