A local family that wants to park more than two gravel trucks on their Gladwin Road property won’t have a chance to plead their case to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Councillors said Monday that forwarding an application to the ALC could open the floodgates to those seeking to turn their land into parking lots for trucks – or legitimize those sites that are already illegally used for parking.
A Gladwin Road raspberry farming family wanted permission to use a space between his home and several old chicken barns to park four gravel trucks driven by three brothers and a father who live on the site. Under the city’s bylaw provisions, only two trucks can be parked on a single farm property. To go beyond that, the family would need the ALC to sign-off on their plan. To get to that stage, though, the city would have to agree to forward on the application to the commission
The issue of truck parking – often unauthorized – on farmland has been a topic for years. With land for truck parking scarce, some farmers have allowed large numbers of vehicles to be parked on their land. The ALC, which is tasked with maximizing the productivity of the province’s agricultural land, says those uses eat up valuable farmland. Commercial groups, meanwhile, say truck drivers who pay little, if nothing, to illegally park their rigs on farmland enjoy a competitive advantage.
The city has taken action against some truck operations based out of agricultural properties, but the task is a large one. A 2016 report suggested there were around 50 properties where trucks were being parked illegally.
On Monday, Coun. Bruce Banman said the city should forward the application without comment to the ALC. He noted that the provincial government had recently made it so applicants could not take their case direction to the ALC.
“I think every applicant has every right to go before the actual decisionmakers,” Banman said.
But Banman’s fellow councillors noted that the ALC had urged municipalities not to avoid making decisions, and to not forward applications they wouldn’t endorse. Several councillors said the city would be risking its credibility in forwarding the application
Coun. Dave Loewen pointed out that the applicant was requesting something that went beyond the city’s own bylaw provisions, while Coun. Ross Siemens suggested that bending the rules a little could result in a deluge of applications to push the limit even further.
“Sure it’s only four trucks,” he said. “The next one is 10 trucks. The next is 15.”
Mayor Henry Braun added that if the city went to the ALC to ask it to increase the limit on trucks being parked on farmland, it was possible – given its current direction under the NDP government – that it could decide to reduce the number of allowable trucks.
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