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Comment: Time for an ‘Innovation Land Reserve’ in the Lower Mainland?

Setting land aside for agricultural-industrial innovation is the hopeful vision of province’s food security task force
alr agricultural land reserve farmland farm land

When the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was proposed in 1972, an industrial land reserve was tipped to follow. The idea was that if one tranche of land was put out of reach of developers, another should be placed within reach.

That didn’t happen, and from time to time the spectre of such a reserve has been raised in the commercial real estate community. It has its proponents, but also its detractors, who note that any constraints on the supply of industrial land would further raise the price such sought-after lands command.

However, what if there were land set aside for agricultural innovation, similar to the parcels set aside in Chilliwack for agricultural-related uses and now home to the new Molson Coors plant, Berryhill Foods Inc. and others?

That’s the vision of the province’s food security task force, whose final report and recommendations were published at the end of January.

Headed by cranberry magnate Peter Dhillon (also a director of the Bank of Canada), the three-member task force recommends hiving off unproductive portions of the ALR for industrial use.

“A land-use strategy that creates specific agricultural-industrial zones within the ALR would allow B.C. to preserve the ALR while ensuring that land of low soil quality, ill-suited for farming but with good transportation connectivity, is maximized,” it says.

The report recommends creating “a Commissioner for Agri-Industrial Lands,” who would oversee their development and be responsible for attracting companies to locate within the proposed zone.

Dhillon said the report’s four recommendations have created interest within government, and he hopes it will act quickly on implementation. 

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