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Agricultural land subdivision application process to come under review: Province

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
June 8th, 2023

The way agricultural land is dealt with in the regional district is about to change.

Due to an increase in Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) subdivision applications over the past few years, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry will be discontinuing parcel-specific review of ALC subdivision applications for a trial period of six months.

“The aim will be to utilize this time to develop alternative outreach and education mechanisms to support land use decisions that benefit agriculture,” said Mark Raymond, executive director of the Extension and Support Services Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, in a letter to the regional district board of directors.

The increased referral workload for local governments, Ministry and ALC staff was the reason. A recent referral impact review project conducted by the Ministry — which reviewed 148 referrals from 26 local governments over a six-month period — showed that while 80 per cent of ALC subdivision applications were deemed “not beneficial to agriculture” the applications were still submitted for a decision in nearly every instance.

Raymond said local government decisions to forward the applications to the ALC were contrary to Ministry staff input, even though 92 per cent of the ALC decisions were consistent with Ministry staff’s assessment and were refused.

“Given the similar input provided by Ministry staff on most subdivision applications, the limited impact that Ministry referral responses appear to be having on local government decisions on subdivision applications, and current staff workload pressures, the Ministry will be discontinuing parcel-specific review of ALC subdivision applications,” said Raymond.

Moving forward in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, development staff will now have to consider several ramifications when reviewing ALC applications for subdivision on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), including data showing that smaller agricultural lots are less likely to be farmed.

A recent 2022 Kwantlen Polytechnic University study exploring the impact of non-farm uses and subdivision on agricultural land found that in regions of B.C. reviewed, “30 per cent of all new parcels created as a result of subdivision ceased to have a farm class status,” and “64 per cent of all the parcels had their ownerships transferred within three years after non-farm use and subdivision applications were approved. This percentage becomes higher for subdivided parcels.”

Raymond said there were other solutions to losing the agricultural land.

“To advance viable long-term agricultural opportunities on the ALR, Ministry staff encourage ALR landowners to pursue alternative land access and tenure options, other than subdivision, such as the leasing of portions of the property, as part of a coordinated succession plan,” he said.

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