New legislation would limit the size of homes on the Agricultural Land Reserve
By Diego Flammini
The B.C. government is taking steps to limit the amount of residential development allowed on 4.6 million acres of protected farmland.
On Monday, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham introduced the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, commonly known as Bill 52. If passed, the bill would limit new house sizes on the Agricultural Land Reserve to about 5,400 square feet (500 square metres).
“We are protecting farmland in B.C. to ensure land is available now and for future generations of farmers, so people in British Columbia have a safe, secure supply of locally grown food on their tables for years to come,” Popham said while tabling the bill in the legislature Monday.
Landowners wishing to build homes that exceed the proposed limits would have to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission. The commission will allow the oversize houses if they deem it necessary for farming.
But if producers have to submit an application through their municipality first, that could cause problems, said Sukhpaul Bal, a cherry producer from Kelowna, B.C.
“The legislation would stop the mega homes from being built on the ALR, which is a good thing,” he told Farms.com. “But the application process for larger homes could be an issue for multigenerational family farms that need bigger homes to accommodate everyone.
“Municipalities may not have the same mandate to preserve agriculture, so the legislation should make sure that family farms can still have access to the infrastructure they need.”
Bill 52 includes other important provisions.
Currently, the ALR is split into two zones. One zone is kept exclusively for farming, while some non-farming activity is allowed on the other.
Minister Popham’s bill would mandate that all farmland within the ALR is used for agricultural production.
The bill also outlines penalties for dumping debris on ALR land.
Anyone caught discarding soil fill, waste or construction debris on farmland could face a $1-million fine and up to six months in prison.
Lana Popham/Twitter photo