EDITORIAL: Irony for the RDN

Directors are writing letters, but local government officials don't have much say over what happens on ALR land

If you decide to live outside the boundaries of incorporated communities like Parksville or Qualicum Beach, have you given up your right to representation?

Three recent examples have highlighted the frustration local residents are feeling about the control of land uses on parcels under the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Land Commission.

Decisions related to what can or cannot be done on parcels that are part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are out of the hands of local government officials. Thing is, we’re not talking about land that’s sparsely populated — much of the ALR land in Parksville Qualicum Beach is close to neighbourhoods, schools and businesses. We’re not talking about 640 acres of pasture that has one or two houses within 20 kilometres.

First, there is the proposed marijuana production facility on ALR land near the River’s Edge neighbourhood just outside of Parksville. Same with another, similarly proposed operation in Deep Bay/Bowser.

Then, this past weekend, the owners of a 600-acre parcel that’s in the ALR near Church Road burned slash as they clear the land for grazing and crops. Don’t blame the owners of the land — they followed all the proper procedures and were given permission to burn, which caused a lot of breathing problems in the French Creek and Morningstar areas.

In both instances, the Regional District of Nanaimo has no say. The provincial government rules the day on ALR lands and doesn’t seem to care much about notifying residents or the RDN politicians who represent these taxpayers.

Should senior levels of government be able to significantly alter the quality of life — short or long term — of residents who live near ALR lands, without at least some input from, or notification to, said residents?

There’s another, albeit less helpful, train of thought here: the RDN is getting a taste of its own medicine.

Not too long ago, the RDN board of directors ignored the duly-elected governments of both Parksville and Qualicum Beach when it came to money for the never-coming-north-of-Nanaimo passenger rail service. And the RDN also overruled Qualicum Beach council on a land-use issue. And the RDN is now crying foul to the province? How ironic.

— Editorial by John Harding