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Throwback: Government's big 'land grab' in Delta

Delta farm owners offered lease back opportunity
delta land expropriated 1968
Delta land expropriated by the B.C. Harbours Board.

Let’s head back to early 1969 to revisit the huge controversy in Delta following the expropriation of 2,000 acres of farmland by the B.C. Harbours Board.

Farmers met to discuss the “land grab” and whether they could afford to lease their lands back.

Expropriation notices were sent to 37 Delta property owners in a proposed mile-wide industrial and service corridor along the Roberts Bank rail route.

The land was to serve the new port including industrial back up lands.

The harbours board had also expropriated just under 2,000 acres paralleling the Delta foreshore.

A day after the expropriation latest notices were sent, W.C. Mearns, B.C. Harbours Board chairman, said the deep sea port would likely require 20,000 acres of land to meet future industrial and waterfront requirements.

Years later, after realizing the expropriated land was not needed at that time, the province offered to sell much of the farms back to their original owners.

However, just over 600 acres of Brunswick Point farmland was held.

Fast forward to 2023, and Delta South MLA Ian Paton once again re-introduced a private member’s bill he says is aimed at protecting Brunswick Point farmland from future development.

Paton, the Liberal agriculture critic, said the hundreds of acres of prime farmland held by the Crown should be kept for agriculture and wildlife habitat in perpetuity, and be offered back to local farmers with long-term leases.

Farmers and the City of Delta had been calling for an opportunity for the farmers to buy the land or get the longer-term leases.

The worry is that the lands are now seen as important for industrial development, given Brunswick Point’s proximity to the port and the shortage of available industrial properties in the region.