A container ship off Deltaport. Port Metro Vancouver is bracing for more pressure to expand terminal operations.

A container ship off Deltaport. Port Metro Vancouver is bracing for more pressure to expand terminal operations.

Hands off farmland, Metro Vancouver tells port

Study areas target Richmond, Pitt Meadows agricultural land

Metro Vancouver directors are calling on the port authority to agree not to turn scarce farmland into more shipping terminals.

The port is redrawing its land use plan and has proposed to designate six special study areas – four in Richmond, one in Pitt Meadows and one in Vancouver – that could be considered for future port-related use.

Metro’s regional planning and agriculture committee voted Tuesday to object to any potential future use of agricultural land by for port purposes.

“It should be on industrially zoned lands, not agriculturally zoned lands,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said.

The study areas in Richmond and Pitt Meadows are all in what Metro classifies as agricultural lands in its regional growth strategy, while the one in Vancouver is general urban land.

The port hasn’t indicated what exact process would be used to eventually decide on the use of the study areas.

“Their report describes in very flowery language how much they want to work with the cities and the region and First Nations and impose strict environmental standards,” Brodie said. “Yet they avoid the very basic issue [of eventual use] and say they’ll look at it later.”

The special study areas are defined by the port as areas that “require additional study, consultation and planning to determine future use.”

Despite the objections, Metro has no power to block the port’s plan.

Metro reps have been on high alert over the port’s appetite for more land since 2009, when it secretly bought 80 hectares of east Richmond farmland without advising the regional district or local city.

Brodie said development of that Gilmore farm land, on the Fraser River at No. 8 Road, could open the floodgates to industrialize more of that part of agricultural Richmond, particularly if a replacement of the Massey Tunnel uses a new corridor in the same area.

“We’re very fearful about what the port in taking over the Gilmore farm could do,” he said. “As bad as that is, it could lead to the total erosion of farmland in our city.”

The port’s plan says it expects “intensification of use and growth in all sectors” along the south arm of the Fraser River, between Delta and Richmond.

One of the challenges the port faces is the continued conversion of industrial land  for redevelopment – with the consent of local cities.

Port officials have been adamant that the Pacific Gateway is a huge source of current and future jobs and is a critical trade route for the broader Canadian economy.

Politicians fear the port could ultimately override the Agricultural Land Reserve to industrialize whatever farmland it decides to use.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she wants all agencies to take a closer look at the idea of developing an “inland port” in Ashcroft, where containers could taken by train for handling, reducing pressure on land and roads in the Lower Mainland.

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