Hundreds of people attended a public hearing on a land swap issue in the Summerland Arena Monday night.
The majority were opposed, judging from a show of hands.
“If Summerland succeeds in removing this land, a precedent will be set and other communities will follow suit,” said Erin Carlson, leader of Stop the Swap, a movement opposing the plan. “The ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve), must remain strong.”
The evening meeting attended by residents, Mayor Janice Perrino, council members and staff included an open house where the public was invited to learn more about Summerland’s urban growth strategy.
Summerland is proposing to exclude 199 acres from the ALR near the downtown core and instead include another 226 acres in a different area.
Residents are against this because they claim the land being excluded is prime class 2 or 3 agricultural land, while the properties being included offer marginal, hilly land, in the class 5 or 6 category.
Other concerns range from a need for agricultural land here while California is grappling with a drought, a desire to preserve the land for future generations, and losing the beauty of Summerland to an oversupply of housing that could result from the plan.
In an emotional presentation, Julie Sardinha, the widow of the late Joe Sardinha, former leader of the BC Fruit Growers Association, addressed the issue of food security.
“I drove home through Californiia, where it is completely brown,” she said. “Food security is a issue today and will be a crisis tomorrow.”
She also talked of her husband’s tireless effort to preserve the ALR, and suggested the current effort is nothing more than a shell game being played — that every time there is a proposed development, it is the flat land, the ALR land.
There was support for the growth strategy from a handful of speakers.
Arlene Fenrich, president of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce, said she applauded the discrict on the process and that the downtown is the best place to put these homes because it will bring business to the area.
The matter on the table at the March 10th meeting of Council.
Thanks to Castanet