Cap house sizes & ban pot greenhouses on B.C. farmland, panel tells province

Panel’s interim report says province should make it easier to penalize rule-breakers

The size of homes that can be built on farmland should be capped, and Agricultural Land Reserve scofflaws should be penalized more robustly for minor offences, a panel tasked with “revitalizing” the ALR has told the province.

The growing of pot in cement-bottomed greenhouses also shouldn’t be allowed in the ALR, said the panel, which was convened earlier this year and issued its interim report Wednesday.

That report says the province should increase enforcement of ALR rules and introduce “smaller scale, immediate enforcement options, on par with other provincial enforcement officers and mechanisms.”

There is currently a “lack of legislative authority for low and mid-level penalties that would support and enforce compliance,” the panel found. Three-quarters of those surveyed by the panel also said more enforcement was needed, but the ALC told the panel that to increase enforcement, it will need more resources.

Abbotsford council has heard that hundreds of farm properties in the city – three quarters of which is in the ALR – are being used in contravention of ALR rules. The city’s AgRefresh process, which was to formulate a plan to deal with the properties, was put on hold this spring pending the introduction of new legislation by the province.

A cap on the size of homes built on farmland was also needed to protect against residential speculation, the panel told the province.

The panel said they heard “unanimous support across the province for prohibiting ‘estate-style homes’” and for bringing in strict limits on the floor space of new homes. The report said farmland is currently being bought by non-farmers who take advantage of lower tax rates on farmland and a lack of limits on the size of homes in the ALR. That, in turn, drives up the price of land for those who actually want to farm it.

Local governments should also be empowered to cap the size of homes in the ALR even lower than the provincial limit, the panel said.

Read the report here.

The government should also immediately ban the non-soil production of pot on properties in the ALR, and take a deeper look at broader issues involving marijuana cultivation, with an eye on permitting cannabis only after an application is made to the ALC.

The potentially vast scale of pot production – much of which is expected to take place in cement-bottomed greenhouses – has the potential to drive up ALR land prices and squeeze out food producers, the province was told. Marijuana cultivation is also incompatible with many other agricultural uses, the panel said.

“Agriculture stakeholders are concerned about large cannabis operators with substantial financial resources squeezing out local farmers,” the panel said.

The panel also recommended the province and ALC clamp down on the dumping of illegal fill on ALR properties, increase collaboration between cities and the ALC, and improve clarity around applications to alter a property’s ALR status. It said the project should ditch the controversial “two-zone” system that has relaxed restrictions on farmland use in areas outside of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Okanagan.

The panel is expected to issue its final report this fall. It is considering a variety of other issues, including rules on greenhouses and commercial composting, the locations permitted to build a house on a farm property, and an examination of the farm income threshold needed to benefit from tax reductions.

That last item could have a significant impact on the ability of hundreds of Fraser Valley property owners to achieve farm status and pay less tax than similarly valued properties in more urban areas.


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Abbotsford company among 500 fastest growing in Canada

Valley Carriers keeps spot on Growth 500 list, but drops from 398 last year to 408 this year

Gill said release containing favouritism allegations was ‘booboo’: Braun

Mayor says subsequent statements by mayoral foe cast doubt on wish for ‘nice, honest contest’

Abbotsford committee documenting history of Philip Sheffield school

Members say the school’s history is a reflection of how its surrounding communities have changed over years

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants earn a 3-1 victory over Everett in season-opener in Langley

Langley’s major junior hockey team opened the season at home with a victory over the Silvertips.

Abbotsford Friday Night Lights

Recaps of all three senior varsity football team games

Snowbird RV Show and Sale event in Abbotsford

Two days remain of the four-day show, open until 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

Remainder of Vancouver Whitecaps season filled with ‘must-win’ games: coach

With Vancouver currently sitting four points out of a post-season spot, each contest is crucial

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Most Read