Dawson Creek city council voted not to support a local landowner’s attempts to rezone their agricultural land into industrial land on Monday.
Last month, Ashley and John Shipton asked for council to endorse their approach to the Agricultural Land Commission to have their land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve and allow industrial development.
Council put off the decision past the holidays, in order to give themselves more time to think about the decision and process the information given to them by the Shiptons.
On Monday, all the councillors and Mayor Mike Bernier voted against the motion, with the exception of Councillor Shaely Wilbur.
Wilbur previously noted that she didn’t “see the harm in letting the Shiptons approach the Agricultural Land Commission.”
Ashley Shipton, who along with her father, John, approached council previously, said that she was “disappointed” by council’s decision.
The Shiptons are the owner owners of Diamond J. Farms, and their land is currently part of the Agricultural Land Reserve. This land is designated by the province to only be used for agriculture.
The Shiptons came forward with letters from local realtors who said that there was a lack of industrial land available near Dawson Creek.
“Denying this proposal results in a very limited amount of industrial land that is actually available to investors who are interested in spending their money in Dawson Creek,” Ashley Shipton wrote earlier.
However, City staff denied that there was a lack of industrial land. Jim Chute told council that there was land available, but that it had not been subdivided into land suitable for realtors.
Further complicating the proposal was the fact that the land had also been affected by another plan, the South Peace Comprehensive Development Plan (SPCDP), which was approved in 2007. Under that plan, the Shiptons land could not be used for industrial use.
City staff recommended against the proposal for this reason, along with others.
“Over Christmas, council did a lot of research and read a lot of documentation about this ground that we didn’t really have at that time saying why we made that comprehensive development plan, why did it work the way it did,” said Bernier. “After council went through that we realized that part of that plan is to be respectful of the regional district and to Pouce Coupe who worked with us.”
In addition, investors also made their plans based on what land was available under the SPCDP, which also contributed to council’s decision.
“For council to turn around at this point and say that we’re going to change the plan midstream and allow that development went against the SPCDP and council chose not to do that.”
Council also had to anticipate the expected growth of the city in the future, and that land would be needed at some point in the future.
“We want to work with the province and the agricultural land commission relationship so that when we need to have land removed we can get that done.”
“I cannot support this motion given all the technical issues and possible negative implications,” said Councillor Charlie Parslow at the meeting. “I would encourage the Shiptons when the time comes to make that application.”
The Shiptons could still have their land allowed for industrial development by the Agricultural Land Commission. However, that motion would have to be approved by the Commission without the support of council. Afterward, council could change the SPCDP when they review it next.