The ALC Act and ALR Regulations are the legislative framework for the establishment, administration, and procedures of BC's agricultural land preservation program.
Bill 52 Changes to the ALC Act and Regulations
On February 22, 2019, the Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation was approved by B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor in Council, bringing into force changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act under Bill 52 – 2018, Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, 2018. The following Questions and Answers provide further details on both process and intent of the legislative changes. For further information on implementation including Agricultural Land Commission procedures, please see the ALC’s website: https://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/alc/content/home
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What is the purpose of Bill 52 – 2018 changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act?
A: These legislative changes are an important step in meeting the Minister of Agriculture’s mandate direction from the Premier to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission.
The changes address three critical issues impacting the ALR:
- Ending the proliferation of large mansions and lifestyle estates in the ALR which inflate land prices and place agricultural land out of the reach of current and new farmers and ranchers
- Ending the dumping of illegal fill in the ALR through clear, stringent rules that ensure the ALC has the necessary information and enforcement tools to monitor and ensure compliance with limits on fill placement and soil removal in the ALR
- Ending the ‘two-zone’ artificial separation of the ALR for improved decision making and protection of this vital provincial land reserve across the province for the benefit of agricultural production
Q2: The Government raised concern about the impact of speculation on land prices in the ALR. How will these legislative changes dampen speculation in the ALR?
A: The purpose of the amendments is to do exactly that, dampen speculation of buyers intending to purchase ALR land for non-farm purposes including large mansions and lifestyle estates. Setting provincial rules for house size and number of residences in the ALR sends a clear Government message that the ALR is for agriculture first, with farming and ranching as the key priority.
Speculation of ALR land and the building of large mansions and lifestyle estates can lead to significantly inflated farmland prices that prevent new, often younger farmers from entering farming or ranching and decreases the incentives for currently active farmers to keep farming.
Q3: What are the legislative changes around residential uses in the ALR? How will they impact private land owners?
A: One of the key changes is the new oversight role of the ALC for residential use and structures on ALR land. Where a landowner seeks to exceed a new residential ‘limit’ in the ALR, such as more than one residence on a parcel, or a larger principal residence than the maximum, they must apply to the ALC for approval. The process would still include an initial application to the local government. The local government would forward to the ALC any application for a ‘non-adhering’ residential use, for ALC review and approval.
The changes will impact some ALR landowners and those intending to purchase ALR land. Those intending to build large mansions or lifestyle estates in the ALR will be impacted by new limits on house size. The amendments limit the total floor area for a principal residence to a maximum of 500m2. Local government zoning bylaws may establish restrictions greater than the provincial maximum (i.e., set a maximum total floor area below 500m2) should a local government choose to do so.
The changes will also impact ALR landowners seeking to build more than one residence on the ALR parcel. Additional residences require approval by the ALC with the exception of manufactured homes which may be placed in the ALR if:
- they are for immediate family members;
- all required authorizations are granted prior to February 22, 2020;
- manufactured home is 9 metres or less in width; and
- the size is not altered after February 22, 2020.
While the authority responsible for approving an additional residence has changed from local government to the ALC the requirement for an additional residence to be necessary for farm use has not. Prior to the Bill 52 changes, section 18(ii) of the ALC Act stated that a local government “may not approve more than one residence on a parcel of land unless the additional residences are necessary for farm use.”
Q4: How was the maximum house size of 500m2 determined?
A: The maximum house size (total floor area) of 500 m2 has been included in the Minister of Agriculture’s Bylaw Standards since 2011 (Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas). This ‘total floor area’ recommended standard was developed through extensive consultation involving local governments on an appropriate maximum principal residence size.
“total floor area” means, for purposes of the ALCA and ALR Use Regulation and pursuant to Commission Resolution No. 056N-2019, the total area of all floors measured to the outer surface of the exterior walls, including corridors, hallways, landings, foyers, staircases, stairwells, enclosed balconies, enclosed porches or verandas, and excluding:
(a) attached garages and unenclosed carports to a cumulative maximum of 42 square metres; (b) basements that do not end beyond the outer surface of the exterior wall of the first floor, with basement meaning that portion of any floor area having more than one‐half its vertical height below the average finished grade at the perimeter of a building; (c) attics, with attic meaning the unfinished space between the roof and the ceiling of the top storey of a building or between a partial wall and a sloping roof.
Q5: Are second dwellings to house farm workers allowed?
A: Additional dwellings for farm use (‘additional residences’) such as a dwelling to house farm workers are allowed under the changes to the Act, through application to the ALC. The applications will still be reviewed by local governments first to determine if they fit within local government bylaws and planning priorities. If they do, local government approval is required prior to the local government forwarding the application to the ALC for decision.
Q6: What will the Commission consider when making a decision on whether to allow a principal residence greater than 500m2 or an additional residence?
A: The ALC has a long history of considering applications for additional dwellings in the ALR where local governments have asked ALC to make the determination on whether or not the requested residential use is “necessary” for farm purposes. Between April 1, 2013 and February 15, 2019, the ALC approved 34 applications for additional dwellings for farm use and in all cases considered whether:
- the request was warranted given the scale of the agricultural operations occurring on the property;
- the size of the residence was reasonable for the farm help requested; and
- the siting of the residence(s) minimized the impacts on the land available for farming.
Information on the kinds of questions the Commission may consider when reviewing applications can be found on the ALC’s website at https://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/alc/content/applications-and-decisions/what-the-commission-considers.
Q7: Do these amendments restrict other residential buildings and accessory uses such as garages, pools or sheds?
A: Public and stakeholder concerns have been raised increasingly about the greatly expanded residential uses of ALR land and the creation of lifestyle estates that include construction of numerous buildings and structures for residential use and recreation, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, helicopter landing pads, multi-car garages, etc.
If a proposed accessory residential use doesn’t fit within the 1000 m2 exemption area provided for the removal of soil or placement of fill for a principal residence in Part 5 of the ALR Use Regulation then a Notice of Intent to construct these uses is required before construction can commence. (See Soil and Fill section below for more information)
Q8: Can I make alterations for my residence without application to the Commission?
A: Yes, provided the alteration reduces or at least doesn’t worsen any pre-existing contravention of the ALCA or the regulations.
Q9: Can I replace my existing principal residence if it is the only residence on a parcel with a new residence while continuing to reside in the existing principal residence?
An application is required to replace an existing principal residence (whether the existing principal residence is a permanent dwelling or manufactured home) if the property owner wishes to keep the existing residence during construction or retain the residence for family members or farm labour after construction of the new dwelling.
Q10: Can I replace my existing additional residence on a parcel where these is more than one residence?
An application is required to replace an existing additional residence that was not previously approved by the Commission. Whether an application is required to replace an existing additional residence that the Commission previously approved through application depends on the terms of the approval.
Q11: What role will local governments have in the new residential provisions?
A: Local governments will now receive ALC applications for residential construction in the ALR. Where an application is for a non-adhering residential use under the Act, such as a house larger than 500 m2, the local government must forward the application to the ALC for decision. Local government bylaws can ‘meet or beat’ this new provincial maximum to further preserve and protect the agricultural value of the ALR.
Some local governments already have bylaws restricting house size well below the new provincial maximum, while others exceed it, or have no current restrictions at all. Establishing a maximum house size in the Act provides strong and clear provincial direction while supporting local governments to set stricter requirements for protecting the ALR within their boundaries.
Q12: What are the new rules for bringing fill onto the ALR?
A: The changes create a new requirement for landowners to submit a Notice of Intent to the ALC prior to proceeding with the introduction of any fill to the ALR. This enhanced oversight will be balanced with exemptions for farmers and ranchers that bring fill onto their parcels as part of their regular maintenance and farm operations. Exemption details can be found in the new ALR Use Regulation.
The changes also make it an offense to place any of the following prohibited materials as fill in the ALR: (a) construction or demolition waste, including masonry rubble, concrete, cement, rebar, drywall and wood waste; (b) asphalt; (c) glass; (d) synthetic polymers (e.g., plastic); (e) treated wood; and (f) unchipped lumber.
Q13: How do the new soil removal and fill placement rules impact residential construction?
A: Fill placement or removal of soil or aggregate is permitted for the construction or maintenance of a principal residence if the total area from which soil or aggregate is removed or on which fill is placed is 1,000 m2 or less.
Removing soil or aggregate from, or placing fill on, ALR land in connection with other residential uses (such as for the construction of an additional residence, or the construction of accessory residential buildings, driveways, lawns and landscaping associated with the principal residence the exceeds the 1,000m2 condition) is not permitted.
A landowner seeking to remove soil or aggregate or place fill that exceeds the 1000 m2 condition may submit a Notice of Intent along with payment of the required fee. The landowner may also apply to the Commission through a Soil or Fill Use Application under s. 25 of the ALCA. Prohibited Fill is not permitted for the construction or maintenance of any residential uses.
For more information on soil and fill uses in the ALR please refer to the ALC Information Bulletin No. 7 on the ALC website at https://www.alc.gov.bc.ca/assets/alc/assets/legislation-and-regulation/information-bulletins/information_bulletin_07_-_soil_or_fill_uses_in_the_alr.pdf
Q14: Are there new costs to landowners for placement of fill and removal of soil?
A: The changes include the ALC collecting a new administrative fee prescribed in Regulation, when a person submits a Notice of Intent to remove soil or place fill. That fee has been prescribed in the Regulation as $150.
Q15: What compliance and enforcement tools are available to an ALC Compliance and Enforcement (C&E) Officer if illegal fill is brought into the ALR? Can they get a warrant to search the property? What penalties will exist for illegal dumping in the ALR?
A: The changes make it an offense to bring fill into the ALR without first obtaining the permission of the ALC, whether through an application, a Notice of Intent, or through a regulatory exemption. It also makes it an offense to place fill of a different type or in a volume exceeding what was set out in the Notice of Intent.
Q16. The new Notice of Intent requirements will create additional administrative work for the ALC. Does the CEO have the capacity to review and respond to all of the new Notice of Intents?
A: This will create additional work for the ALC and the CEO so provisions have been built into the Bill to help alleviate this. First, the time period for the CEO to respond to a Notice of Intent is extended from 30 days in the current Act, to within 60 days in this Bill. Second, the CEO will be allowed to delegate their authority to respond to notices to ALC staff. The ALC also has three new soil resource positions to assist with the processing of applications.
It is important to note that while the new rules do increase work at the front end to review the Notices of Intent, this could lead to fewer C and E resources given that 45% of existing C and E files are soil and fill related and to the better preservation of land in the ALR for agriculture.
Agricultural Land Commission Act
The Agricultural Land Commission Act, S.B.C. 2002, c. 36, (the "ALC Act"), is the high-level statute that sets out principles and broad rules for the protection of agricultural land in British Columbia.
The ALC Act takes precedence over, but does not replace other legislation and bylaws that may apply to the land. Local and regional governments, as well as other provincial agencies, are expected to plan in accordance with the provincial policy of preserving agricultural land.
Agricultural Land Reserve Regulations
As of February 22, 2019 the BC Government amended the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation renaming it the Agricultural Land Reserve General Regulation B.C. Reg 171/2002 that sets out application procedures, and adopted a new Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation B.C. Reg 30/2019 that identifies uses of ALR land. To view the recent amendments please refer to Order in Council 67/2019 - ALR General Regulation and ALR Use Regulation
Recent Amendments to the ALC Act and the ALR Regulations
July 4, 2019 (Additional Residences and Manufactured Homes)
Order in Council 385/2019 ALR Use Regulation
May 30, 2019 (Not yet in Force and Effect) - Exclusions, Panels, Decision making criteria, Reconsiderations, Enforcement provisions, Notice of SRWs)
Bill 15 - Amendment Agricultural Land Commission Act - Pending regulation development to be in Force and Effect
February 22, 2019 (New Definitions, Residential Uses, Soil and Fill Uses, Prohibited Fill)
Order in Council 67/2019 ALR General Regulation and ALR Use Regulation
November 27, 2018 (Elimination of Zone 2, Residential Use, Soil and Fill Use)
Bill 52 - Amendment Agricultural Land Commission Act
July 13, 2018 (Lawful Cannabis Production)
Order in Council 380/2018 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
July 29, 2016 (Agri-Tourism, Gathering for an Event)
Order in Council 602/2016 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
July 8, 2016 (Block Exclusion - Process, Tree Planting)
Order in Council 508/2016 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
May 19, 2016 (Block Exclusion - Owner Consent)
Bill 25 - 2016 Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment
March 14, 2016 (ALC Fee Change)
Order in Council 159/2016 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
December 16, 2015 (Road Works - Site C)
Order in Council 771/2015 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
June 15, 2015 (Permitted Uses - Liquor, Processing, Residential Use; Application Status; Reporting Out)
Order in Council 346/2015 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
May 7, 2015 (Permitted Uses - Medical Marihuana, Aggregate Extraction, Passive Recreation, Forest Service Road Widening)
Order in Council 200/2015 Amendments to BC Regulation 171/2002
November 27, 2014 (Application of Administrative Tribunals Act, Commissioner Terms, Lieutenant Governor Power to Make Regulations)
Bill 4 - 2014 Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment
May 29, 2014 (Establishes Panels, Zones, Zone 2 Criteria, Required OCP Consultation, Performance Indicators)
Bill 24 - 2014 Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act
January 1, 2014
Table of Legislative Change - ALC Act
November 24, 2011 (Establishes Additional Fees; CEO Refusals and Chair Reconsiderations)
Bill 19 - 2011 Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment