Urban agriculture can’t be held back

Re: Urban agriculture a complex matter, Guest Comment, June 28.

To the Editor,

Re: Urban agriculture a complex matter, Guest Comment, June 28.

Our mayor frames the Lantzville urban agriculture debate as either a non-conforming zoning issue or regularizing backyard food gardening. But there is a much larger issue.

Lantzville pre-dates suburbia, shopping malls and the kind of zoning that separates residences from community life.

Current zoning kills community life by replacing public space with suburban sprawl. Most Lantzvillagers would love to buy their food from local producers. Instead, we get a bylaw proposal pursued at indecent speed by a council majority of four to three, forbidding the commercial production of food on larger properties; 600 square metres or 30 per cent of the property is inadequate.

Planners and politicians are trying to contain the urban agriculture movement in the face of huge public support for intensive food gardening regardless of residential zoning bylaws. People of every political stripe, income level, and educational attainment are united in their support for urban agriculture. Local farmers are much appreciated.

Councillors shouted us agriculture supporters down because a few hotheads at a public hearing rudely demanded instant results.

A written statement from Lantzville residents had asked only for consultation to begin immediately. Phone calls were not returned. E-mails were not answered. When we asked for a committee of residents to do in-depth community consultation we were insulted by insinuations of bias.

The highly qualified planner retained by council was ignored when she advised that more research and consideration were necessary before second reading.

As of June 30, we could not see the bylaw after second reading, because changes were inserted on June 13, and the minutes have to be approved by the mayor and were not yet available. Third reading and adoption can come anytime within a period of two weeks.

The mayor speaks of possible water contamination from runoff; of smell and flies from horse manure; of noise and traffic. Neighbours who walk that road will tell you that they do not notice offensive smells or excessive traffic. The health authority has not been called in.

Reintegrating town and country life will not be easy, but suburbia is unsustainable. If complaints are to be laid, we will expect them to be laid by the neighbour affected, not anonymously by a member of our elected council.

In the villages I remember, the large estates were a very small percentage of the community. The folks from the big house performed very much the same function as Prince William and his consort are doing for Canada Day: they dressed up, opened bazaars and patronised local artists, craftspeople and tradespeople. Suburbia is an impossible attempt to mimic that small percentage.

Madame de Pompadour said, “Après nous le déluge” (Ruin, if you like, when we are dead and gone).

Heads may not roll over bad planning decisions, but municipal decision-makers would be ill-advised to try to hold back the incoming tide of urban agriculture.

Marjorie Stewart