The Agricultural Land Commission is receiving criticism from multiple groups after it ruled a Pitt Meadows farmer would not be allowed to sell Otter Co-op feed supplies after the co-op’s area location was shut down last year.
Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre applied to the ALC to be the new location to store and sell Otter Co-op’s farm feed and supplies after the sudden closure of the Otter Co-op Pitt Meadows location in 2022, due to the construction of the new Harris Road underpass. The ALC denied the request.
Jack Nicholson, CEO of Otter Co-op, was just one of many people who voiced his displeasure over what he called an illogical ruling.
“Otter Co-op is also deeply disappointed that the ALC declined an agricultural-based local business that supports the agricultural community to be allowed to service and sell products and services from their property that directly improves access to agricultural needs in the area,” said Nicholson.
“We are unsure of the reasoning behind the decision, as I do not see a negative impact to the applicant’s current agricultural land from preserving this service to the community.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor Nicole MacDonald was upset with the decision, saying that it would lead to major disruptions for the local farming community.
“Permitting the sale of farm feed and supplies in an agricultural area makes sense,” said MacDonald. “The solution proposed to the ALC would have been a way to keep the Otter Co-op in our community.”
Pitt Meadows Councillor Mike Manion also chimed in on the issue, saying “things like this clearly demonstrates that there isn’t any support for agriculture.”
The Maple Meadows application was unanimously supported by Pitt Meadows city council in March of 2022.
But then on Nov. 15, the ALC announced it had rejected the application, citing numerous reasons.
“The panel finds that introducing a commercial use in the heart/centre of the ALR and the increased traffic not associated with farming (even if minimal as suggested by the applicant) would have an impact on the continuity of the agricultural land base of the area and could cause conflicts derived from the interaction of two different land-use activities,” said the report.
“The panel finds that the purpose of the ALR is not to accommodate a commercial activity better suited to urban areas.”
Mike Crouse, co-owner of the Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre, strongly disagrees with the ALC’s arguments about increased traffic to the area. The commission suggested using an urban space for the supply and sale of Otter Co-op’s products.
“They [the ALC] thought there would be hundreds of more cars driving down our street, but the Otter Co-op employees told us that we’d actually be lucky to get 30 cars per day,” said Crouse.
“If they’re so worried about traffic in this area, then they should do something about the endless asphalt and dump trucks that drive up and down our street all day long.”
Crouse also explained that as part of the application process, he and his wife toured the area, looking for any commercial buildings that could possibly be rented. Thet found nothing viable for the business.
As part of the application, Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre closed its teaching school so that the 11,000-square-foot building on the property could be repurposed to store the various feed supplies.
“We shut down part of our business, because we didn’t think any of this would be an issue,” said Crouse.
Denying the application also resulted in four former Otter Co-op employees losing a chance to continue their work at a feed store, as Crouse explained that he and his wife were planning to hire four workers from the previous location to help run the new feed supplies store on their property.
Without a viable alternative to the Pitt Meadows co-op, many local farmers are now being forced to drive to the nearest Otter Co-op feed store, which is located at 3548 248th St., in Langley.
“Co-op doesn’t offer delivery, and we don’t always have time to go all the way to Aldergrove,” said Crouse, who needs significant amounts of feed for his many horses.
Above all else, Crouse is simply feeling disheartened by this decision, which comes after many months of working through the application process.
“We put a year of effort into this and got nothing from it,” said Crouse.
“We wanted to do this to support our community and we even had a lot of people thank us for trying to do this, but now we have to tell them that the ALC shot it down.”
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