Farmland in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Province looking to relax residential restrictions on agricultural land

Chilliwack farmer cautions that some aspects could open Agricultural Land Reserve up to speculation

The provincial government is looking at loosening up some of the residential rules in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

If the proposed changes go ahead, landowners in the ALR would be permitted to have a principal residence, and a small secondary residence like a garden suite or carriage house, with local government approval.

“We are continuing to do the work necessary to help farmers farm and protect farmland for future generations,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, in the release.

“The proposed changes, if implemented, would provide additional residential flexibility in the ALR.”

READ MORE: FV family in limbo over secondary residence

Farmers would no longer be restricted to a manufactured home to be used specifically by a family member, approved by the Agricultural Land Commission and local government.

“Under the proposal, a small secondary residence would be available for farm-workers, family members or anyone else, provided there is local government approval,” the minister said.

Chris Kloot, a Chilliwack city councillor and farmer, said he was “encouraged and appreciative” that the government is listening to farmers’ concerns about the restrictive rules.

“They are recognizing that farming, in areas where land prices are high, will often see them operating as a family unit,” Kloot said, he can see the need for residence options from a multi-generational farming perspective.

“It is only appropriate for those who put sweat equity into a family farm should be able to stay on it, and provide that wealth of knowledge,” Kloot added.

READ MORE: City councillor sat on ALR revitalization committee

The regulatory changes would allow landowners to have both a principal residence and a small secondary home on the property, with approval by local government. One aspect that is changing is that property owners would not be required to get ALC approval as well.

Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove sees the wisdom in it.

“The 2019 changes to the ALC legislation that effectively banned second homes on properties in the ALR had a significant negative impact on our farming community,” Popove said. “It is important for farmers, family members and other farm workers to live on their farms.”

He wrote to Ag Minister Popham to express concerns.

“I am encouraged that the Ministry of Agriculture appears to be listening. I hope their proposed changes result in a positive outcome for Chilliwack’s agricultural community.”

The new ALR residential options and conditions such as size, siting, and quantity being considered by government include:

• garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites;

• accommodation above an existing building;

• manufactured homes; and

•permitting a principal residence to be constructed in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence.

One note of caution Coun. Kloot had was that the changes could open the ALR to speculation.

The city councillor who chairs the agricultural advisory committee said he was pleased that they are opening the discussion up on residential flexibility for farmers, but he was concerned in the news release that the options would be open to workers, farmers, or anybody else.

The press release noted the government is considering these changes in order to support both “farmers and non-farmers” living in the ALR.

“To open it to those who have no farming intent, that does concern me, and I will be sharing that concern in my feedback,” Kloot underlined.

To comment on the proposed changes send feedback by April 17, 2020, via email: ALR_ALCRevitalization@gov.bc.ca

See the details on Residential Flexibility in the ALR: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/agricultural-land-and-environment/agricultural-land-reserve


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
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