Nicola Valley Agri Park

Merritt, BC

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Merritt City Council - Committee of the Whole, Jan 30th

So nothing ever really goes as planned, mostly weather related lately, but this time a flat tire keeps Mike from attending the meetings in Merritt. He extends his apology and hopes to be in Merritt again soon. As a technically orientated person, being thrown into doing the presentation was more about just going by the playbook with only minor prep over the phone with Mike prior to the meeting. Armed with the feedback from local businesses during the pre-meeting gathering at the Kekuli Café, the general presentation went well. The City Council needs to decide if this project is going be part of Merritt. The presentation offered the municipality an opportunity to support in-kind and help develop the facilities.

Several previous locations were discarded for one reason or another until it was suggested because of the agricultural nature of the project, it might use the current site proposal, just north of where the info center was, which is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve. This reserve is 5% of crown land in BC that is considered agriculturally important and comes with restrictions when not used for some sort of agriculture. This project would be considered a permitted use. The city admits that this parcel has been on their radar for at least 15 years but wouldn't offer any more info than that.

A non-profit agricultural society wants to develop an agricultural park on agricultural reserved lands with start-up funding provided by the provincial and federal governments. A multi-million dollar project, jobs for the community, proposing to profit-share with the community and the city operations in exchange for their support in-kind for engineering or developing the land. When agriculture is profitable, the ripple effect is felt throughout the support industries such as ranches, farms, logistics, packing plants, food-processors, feed dealers, machinery suppliers, technology vendors, mechanics, welders, veterinarians, accountants, lawyers and even highways maintenance. This is giving opportunities to future generations to get involved in agriculture.

Not surprisingly mention of the ALR becomes the focus of the discussion. But despite asking several times what is an A.L.R. by the impromptu presenter? No one offers up the simplest of explanations,  that it stands for "Agricultural Land Reserve". Seriously, to a IT guy ALR could have meant anything, however ask a farmer about ALR and there's going to be feedback, including support for this kind of project within the ALR.

The query got lost in the ensuing clash of wills between an old school horseman vs. a stubborn council, leaving the presenter thinking that no one in the room knew what it was either? The meeting ended with a councillor focused on reprimanding our Society President a second time for an earlier noise from the gallery that briefly interrupted another presentation. It was unintentional as our president is sometimes loudly outspoken, motivated on this project and felt the need to tell me that our project could help theirs. 

Finding out what ALR meant was no big deal, but made me feel somewhat disappointed that no one offered an explanation at the meeting or invited our president to the podium instead of that other shit. The response would have been simply, isn't this the perfect project for an ALR? and why would the city not then immediately support the project within it's limits on crown land? After 3 years of work on it by the society, what's the hold up?

Pretty sure we'll hear more about the ALR in the days and weeks to come. It just seems more logical that the response should have been, hey let us help you with that. ALR! no problem, "we are 100% behind agricultural use for agricultural land reserve in our area!" and maybe a little, "we would love to have our engineers look at the plans and share in the benefits and profits for our community."

We have drafted a letter to be sent to council which explains how this all fits with the ALR and hopefully council will make a decision soon before the society moves the project outside city limits which would mean less involvement by Merritt in general. So there's basically 2 council meetings coming up on the 13th and the 27th. Anyone and everyone that wants to support this project should show up before the meeting and put their name on the public roster to speak out in support of the park. Mark the dates and we'll get the word out, thank you.

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