Lentelus Farms owner and operator Dave Semmelink is photographed on his farm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Lentelus Farms owner and operator Dave Semmelink is photographed on his farm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Island farmer concerned highway expansion poised to swallow up usable farmland

Province looking at improving Highway 19A through Courtenay, and may need ALR land to do it

Two years ago, Dave Semmelink leased his farmland and has been growing his Comox Bay Farm stand, offering a variety of homegrown free-range meat, eggs, bread and produce in the middle of the Comox Valley.

Semmelink, who operates Lentelus Farms, hopes his stand will be on his farm – at 1300 Comox Rd.- for years to come, but the provincial government may have other plans.

Earlier this year, he was made aware of proposed a expansion to Highway 19A, which would involve expropriation of some of his land and his neighbour’s. Both pieces are within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincial zone in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. Farming is encouraged and non-agricultural uses are restricted. The ALR protects approximately 4.6 million hectares of agriculturally suitable land across B.C.

Highway 19A runs parallel to Semmelink’s leased property, known as Farquharson Farms in Courtenay. The Farquharsons owned 192 acres of land in the middle of the city but sold the property to Ducks Unlimited Canada in 1998. Semmelink acquired use of a part of the property as part of a 20-year-lease two years ago from Ducks Unlimited and was planning to renew when it expires.

The proposed expropriation caught him by surprise.

“I just found out; (the province) doesn’t seem to have consulted with Ducks Unlimited. (The project) is supposed to be in the best interest of the people, which I don’t think this is.”

He added that he would like the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to complete a thorough stakeholder engagement process that includes those that would be potentially impacted by the proposed expropriation to try and find a path forward that will benefit all parties involved.

“They will literally be destroying my business,” he added. “It’s a small business, gone. It makes me really nervous that they’re pushing this through so quickly. I’ve gotten such positive feedback (to the farmstand), especially through the pandemic, it’s been amazing. We’ve been able to keep the business viable, especially because we haven’t been able to sell as much to restaurants, and it also shows the importance of local food security.”

In a letter to Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard, Semmelink notes that permanently removing the lands from the ALR with no meaningful consultation with almost any of the affected stakeholders appears to be a direct contradiction of the B.C. government’s Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC objectives.

RELATED: Farmer bringing back classic farm stand in Courtenay

He adds not only would there be a large expense involved for his business if he was forced to close down and relocate during construction, but the impacts are also broader than just his livelihood and local food security.

“The farm stand allows us the opportunity to host and teach (students in) North Island College’s (Sustainable Farming Training Program). Without the opportunity to sell our produce directly to local customers we might not be able to host this learning opportunity for the 12 students enrolled in the program. These students are the backbone of our local food security; they have gone on to manage local dairy farms, start their own farm business and work as skilled farm labourers in our local agricultural community.”

Semmelink says the proposal is for two additional lanes to be added to the highway, along with a walkway path and a bike lane.

A representative from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirms the ministry is currently undertaking planning work related to Highway 19A to make the road safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, while also addressing flooding issues.

“Ministry staff are in the very early design and planning phase. The ministry has been working with local stakeholders and will continue to keep people well informed as things progress. Conversations about any land required will take place at a later date after the design and planning phase is complete,” notes the representative in an email.

Leonard echos what MOTI notes and adds they will be working with stakeholders through the process, however, she understands Semmelink’s reaction to the project.

“Expropriation is a rarely used option and ALR land is there for a reason; this will be addressed during the planning stages and there will be stakeholder engagement and there will be an opportunity for Dave to have further discussions.”

She said while Highway 19A is a provincial road, it does cut through the City of Courtenay and expects there to be engagement with the city as well.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

(File photo)
Island conservation group says members targeted with harassment, vandalism

Police investigate pair of reports of mischief victims call pushback against conservation efforts

Nootka Sound RCMP responded to a workplace fatality report south of Gold River on Monday morning. (Campbell River Mirror photo)
One dead in workplace accident at Gold River logging site

The RCMP and Work Safe BC are investigating the incident at Western Forest Product’s TFL 19

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Nanaimo sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Whispers Adult Superstore overnight Feb. 21

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor: All Victoria’s unhoused will be offered shelter by no-camping deadline

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Pacific Coastal Airline flights 8P1543 on Feb. 22 and 8P1538 on Feb. 24 had cased of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Pacific Coastal Airlines photo)
Two flights between Kelowna and Victoria report COVID-19 exposures

Pacific Coastal Airlines flights on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 affected

Organizers say some 100 vehicles rallied against plans by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Victoria to sell 40 acres of its 98-acre property in Metchosin. (Barb Sawatsky/Submitted)
Proposed subdivision of green space in Metchosin draws 100 vehicles in protest

Plans for land owned by Boys Girls Club of Greater Victoria affects entire region, say residents

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

Most Read