Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coldstream Farmers' Concerns of 2011 Ignored in 2012

Excellent letter reproduced below in its entirely (from page 19 of 20 at link-->) Roxanne Ronan.

Re: the Coldstream Agricultural Plan Amendment Bylaw

"From: Roxanne Ronan
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 4:24 PM
To: Keri-Ann Austin
Subject: District of Coldstream Official Community Plan Bylaw Amendment
To Mayor Jim Garlick, District of Coldstream Councilmembers, and Planners:
I would like to formally state my opposition to the amendment to the District of Coldstream Official
Community Plan to limit parcel size to a minimum of 10 hectare (24.7 acre) for land in the Agricultural
Land Reserve. I currently own slightly over 43 acres of ALR land within the District of Coldstream. If I'm
interpreting your proposal correctly, this amendment would not allow me to be able to subdivide and
gift our property to our children. Nor would it allow us to sell a small parcel in times of financial distress,
and remain on our property. Passing the family farm to family members is an agricultural tradition
which has existed for centuries. Our land to my knowledge has had just two family owners since 1906.
Your amendment would force larger parcel landowners to sell out upon retirement or in cases of
hardship - but sell to who? Land prices are way too high for self- sustaining agriculture - no true farm
operation can afford to buy large pieces. These parcels will be sold for "estate homes" where the
agricultural uses of the property would be secondary to lifestyle choices. How does this benefit your
plans for the viability of farming in Coldstream? How does this benefit young people who want a rural
I would think that the numbers of us who own ALR parcels in excess of 24.7 acres are few in comparison
to the total number of property owners in Coldstream. This amendment is a form of discrimination
against those of us who hold our assets as land - rather than stocks or bonds .. 1 strongly urge you to
rethink this bylaw amendment - it will not have the consequences you intend. If anything, it could force
the last generation who knows anything about farming off of their land.
Yours sincerely,
Roxanne Ronan and Family"

"The last generation," sighs Kia, sadly "who knows anything about their land."

This Mayor and Council wanted to make an impact on farming in Coldstream...

After this bylaw amendment, the only power left to farmers is to NOT farm.  Quite the legacy, Council!

Besso Proves the ALC Doesn't Need Help

Coldstream Councillor Maria Besso--in an email to the Coldstream Ratepayers' Association (which was formed in opposition to the development of Coldstream Meadows' retirement community by Jack Borden)--made an urgent plea for the group's support during the last day that Comments were allowed for the new Coldstream Agricultural Plan.

Members of Council noticeably bristled when I referred to the group's origins during my comments Monday night.  
And rightly so...because the CRA (not to be confused with the Canada Revenue Agency, although through this Council's recent bylaws, money-grubbing parallels do exist) is alive and well on Coldstream Council, and continues to work behind Coldstream's supposedly open political scene.

Apart from being proof that the Ag Open House may merely have been a required formality to be transparent--and acreage owners' comments were likely to be relegated to the "we knew you'd say that" bin--perhaps Councillor Besso is helping the Occupy Movement maintain a foothold in Coldstream.  Yes, they also bristled at my comment of that.
But it is obvious that even after the Open House and evident opposition to the proposed changes in the Agricultural Plan that some members of Council continue to ignore what the farming community is saying.  The statistics are a fair assessment, but Councillor Besso's interpretation and application of these facts goes against what the farming community is saying.  It's not what the farming community has asked for.  Her statement proves there is no need to change the parcel size to a minimum of 25 acres as the Agricultural Land Commission--with very few exceptions--have not allowed any subdivisions within the ALR.

Decide for yourself from these forwarded emails:

"From: Maria Besso []
Sent: March-29-12 12:36 AM
To: Coldstreamer
Cc: Doug Dirk; Jim Garlick; Pat Cochrane; Peter McClean; Richard Enns; Mike Stamhuis; Keri-Ann Austin; Michelle Austin; Craig Broderick
Subject: Re: Urgent message to CRA members

Perhaps it would be useful to inform the readers that  the ALR land in Coldstream is already very heavily parcelized.  

57 % of Coldstream's land base is within the ALR. The total land base in Coldstream is 6,429 ha.

According to Map 2.1 of the July 2009 Coldstream Agricultural Plan, there are 824 parcels in Coldstream that are all or partially in the ALR, of those 824 parcels, 640 of them are already less than 4 hectares ( ie 77.6 % of the parcels are NOT sub dividable because they are already under 4ha.) 

* note that under the present RU-2, it would imply that the minimum parcel size you could subdivide to would be 2 hectares, since you could not subdivide anything smaller than 4hectares to arrive at parcels 2 ha or bigger, then all the parcels that are already less than 4 ha are non-subdividable (unless they are excluded from the ALR, or qualify for a homesite severance.) 

The reality of owning property in the ALR ( regardless of the implied zoning under the Official Community Plan OCP)  is that all subdivision must be approved by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) .  In the last 10 years in Coldstream there have been 17 applications for subdivision in the ALR ( apart from ALR exclusions or non-farm use, or Homesite severances ) of these 17 applications to subdivide - all were refused by the ALC.  So wether(sic) you designate your minimum lot size as 2 ha or 10 ha, if your land is in the ALR, the ALC, for all practical purposes, does NOT approve ANY subdivision. 

So designating all the ALR land in Coldstream as RU-10 changes nothing for 77.6% of the parcels. Wether(sic) they are called RU-2 or RU-10,  they remain the same size that they are, and they are clearly not able to be subdivided.  The perceived change comes for the owners of the remaining 184 parcels (22.33% of the parcels), these parcels are over 4ha.  

We have already established that the ALC practice is NOT to approve subdivision in the ALR regardless of the minimum parcel size stipulated in a Community's OCP.

So in changing the zoning to RU-10 in our OCP we are simply bringing the Community zoning in line with the reality of the rules of the ALC, and the desire to maintain land in the ALR in the Province of British Columbia, rather than see it cut up into smaller and smaller chunks.  In Coldstream there are only 32 parcels totally or partially in the ALR that are larger than 20 ha., so theoretically they may still be sub-dividable into minimum 10 ha. parcels but that is unlikely because it would also require ALC approval.  That portion only represents 3.9% of the ALR parcels in Coldstream and the Agricultural Advisory Committee felt that there would not be significantly higher advantage to increase the minimum lot size to 30hectares ( as recommended by the MInistry of Agriculture) because it would be perceived as too harsh. So therefore the 10 ha minimum parcel size is a compromise, but it does not change the reality of ALC policy and historical decisions. 

The sad reality is that Coldstream's ALR has already been subdivided into small chunks, it just may not appear that way because many of those smaller chunks may be farmed together as one larger entity. For example; the Coldstream Ranch is made up of 129 parcels, and 47% of these parcels ( 61) are already subdivided into chunks that are less than 4hectares in size.

We have just witnessed the sale of Jamie Kidston's orchard, it had appeared to everyone as one farm, but it was actually made up of 4parcels ( that were subdivided long ago), three were sold off to separate owners, and they risk becoming Country Estates. Fortunately, for now, the new owners have agreed to keep farming the land as one orchard and pool their resources, hopefully this will set a good example and keep farming viable for those owners. 

Gyula please feel free to post this as I hope it will serve to better explain the reasoning behind the changes to zoning proposed in the new Coldstream Agricultural Plan.
Maria Besso"


Date: 28/03/2012 3:49:34 PM
Subject: Re: Urgent message to CRA members

This is a misrepresentation.  This OCP makes it harder for the smaller farmer to find ALR to farm.  It does not protect farm land – just the opposite.  It just provides the wealthy a chance for estate homes.  Please try to present a more unbiased way of soliciting support.  The 99% will thank you."


"From: coldstreamer
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2:47 PM
Subject: Urgent message to CRA members


Urgent Message To the CRA membership:

If you are in support of Coldstream Council's Zoning Bylaw Amendment (to preserve ALR land) which specifies that future subdivision of ALR land be limited to a minimum parcel size of 10 hectares, please go to Municipal Hall and fill out the appropriate form, or go to Coldstream's Website:
And fill out the form online and email it back to Council. 
The deadline for doing this is today (Mar. 28).
Since this is such short notice, please respond at least by supporting the item entitled New Rural 10 (RU.10) Zone – lot area 2ha to 10ha, as it sends the message that you support this council in its endeavours to honour the OCP and protect and preserve our agricultural lands.
Thank you for your support.
Steve Heeren, Acting President, Coldstream Ratepayers Association"

(Steve Heeren was the moderator at the All Candidates' Meetings during November's civic elections in Coldstream).

Honouring the OCP?  You mean the Official Community Plan that this Mayor and Council have changed to support the Agricultural parcel changes?  Yup, that one.

"The World According To Besso," offers Kia.

Or at least, Coldstream According to Besso.