Business & Economy
August 23, 2017

Port Metro Vancouver Eats into Agricultural Land Reserve


In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America  is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled.  “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that  commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver  has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use.  And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space,  “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land  will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you  maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you  restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market?  And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of  e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”

 

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