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If Metro Vancouver runs out of industrial land, what does that mean for the economy?

Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge, North Vancouver port and downtown Vancouver are seen here from the NEWS 1130 Air Patrol in the summer of 2019. (Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)
Summary

If more changes aren't made soon, businesses may choose to give the region a pass

Recent statistics show 26 per cent of area jobs are dependent on industrial land

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Metro Vancouver can’t forget businesses when figuring out how to use area land. That’s a warning that’s coming from Langley City Councillor Nathan Pachal, who also runs the South Fraser Blog.

In a recent entry, Pachal says in Metro Vancouver we’re on track to run out of industrial space in 25 years, which may see future generations missing out on economic oppportunities.

Citing research done on behalf of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, Pachal says those numbers show that 26 per cent of jobs in this region are “dependent on industrial land.” These include film, transportation, warehousing, logistics, manufacturing, wholesale, construction and resources-related occupations.

“[Currently], some of the uses in industrial land isn’t industrial. We’re in a region that’s bordered by mountains, the ocean, the U.S. border. We need to look at approaches to preserve what we have, and maybe intensify uses of the existing industrial land.”

Pachal says some areas employ zoning tactics that aren’t always clear, so while the space may be for industrial use, it ends up being land for offices, big box retail, homes, or auto dealerships.

Metro Vancouver is in an okay place right now, but Pachal says if more changes aren’t made soon, businesses may choose to give the region a pass, should they not have the space needed to operate.

“Businesses looking to locate in Metro Vancouver, they might look to locate elsewhere. When you’re looking at future generations, maybe we’re going to have people leaving our region, or maybe there will be missed opportunity for good paying jobs because we don’t have the land.”

As for options to try and curb the issue, Pachal says there are a few that are being floated by the Metro Vancouver Regional District, as it prepares the next round of updates to the regional growth strategy. This is in tandem with some of the things that have already been done.

“The region has been progressively improving protection of the industrial lands, I would say, over the last decade or so. The first step they took was creating a regional industrial employment land zone; that happened with our most recent regional growth strategy, which all municipalities must adhere to. Now they’re looking at, ‘Okay, should we make it a little bit harder to be able to take land out of industrial zoning?'”

Pachal says it’s also looking at mixed-use options, like allowing restaurants to share the space with a business of an industrial nature.

“We need to look at a collaborative regional approach to find what ‘industrial’ actually means.”

Some of the other options include establishing a provincial industrial land reserve, which would be similar to the agricultural land reserve, or encouraging intensification of a zone where possible.