Council pushes for Meadowlark removal from ALR

By ROY WOOD

Town officials took advantage of a visit from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) on Monday to push for removal of Richter properties from the land reserve.

A delegation, including ALC chief executive officer Kim Grout, spoke to a council committee, outlining recent changes in the organization and administration of the commission.

Following her presentation, town planning and development director Alain Cunningham told the group that the 7.6-acre, 28-unit housing development meets the three main criteria set out by the commission:

  • It has high density to make best use of the land;
  • It includes an affordable housing component; and
  • The agricultural lands outside the boundaries are protected by a buffer.

Once the development has gone through the various council approval processes, the town will apply to have the land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The subdivision sits on the remainder of the land purchased by the town for the new fire hall, which is directly to its north. As a result, Cunningham said, the water and sewer services brought in to service the fire hall can be easily and cheaply deployed to serve the subdivision.

The development is planned for 24 single-family houses and two duplexes. The homes will be between 1200 and 1400 square feet and will sell for no more than $350,000.

Four of the units will be subsidized by between fifteen and twenty per cent and made available to families selected by an affordable housing authority.

Mayor Sue McKortoff told the ALC representatives she hopes they will look favourably on the development.

“It’s a good place to put affordable housing,” she said.

The property is within walking distance of the downtown, the Sun Bowl Arena, the high school and the library.

The town reached an agreement late last month to sell the lots to Ellcar Construction of Osoyoos.

Company president Hart Buckendahl told the Osoyoos Times he is ready to start construction as soon as surveys are completed and the land is released from the ALR.

During a question and answer period at Monday’s meeting, Councillor CJ Rhodes asked the commissioners how the decisions about exclusions are made.

ALC Okanagan panel member Gerald Zimmerman said the commission is “not a closed-minded group” and will not be unreasonable in its deliberations.

He said there are two top things a panel considers when reviewing an application for exclusion. Is the land really needed for a non-agricultural use? And is the proposed use the best one in the long term?

Cunningham said the Southeast Meadowlark subdivision, of which the Richter property is a part, is the focus of residential development in the town for the next 15 years and has the potential to eventually contain 400 residences.

In her presentation about recent changes to the commission, Grout mentioned legislative and regulatory changes from the last two years, including:

  • The division of the province in two zones. Zone 1 includes the Okanagan, the south coast and Vancouver Island;
  • A recent $1.1 million increase in the commission’s budget, which will allow better communication with local governments; and
  • An application fee increase to $1,500 from $600 in Zone 1 and from $600 to $900 in Zone 2.

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