What the Commission Considers

The ALC is an administrative tribunal under the Administrative Tribunals Act. Each application is considered on a case-by-case basis within the context of the purposes of the ALC.

The application and supporting material are the applicant’s opportunity to demonstrate to the ALC how the purposes of the Commission under s. 6 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act (ALC Act) will be supported if the application is approved. The applicant should carefully consider the contents of their application. The applicant may not have an opportunity to provide further information if they disagree with a decision, if that information could have been submitted to the Commission through reasonable diligence at the time of application.

The purposes of the commission as stated in Section 6 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act are:

(a)  to preserve agricultural land;
(b)  to encourage farming on agricultural land in collaboration with other communities of interest;
(c)  to encourage local governments, first nations, the government and its agents to enable and accommodate farm use of agricultural land and uses compatible with agriculture in their plans, bylaws and policies.

The following table is a sample of common questions that the ALC may consider when reviewing an application. As an administrative tribunal, the ALC can consider a wide variety of information as part of its decision making.

*Each unique application warrants the consideration of multiple criteria, and none of the below questions are considered in isolation. Nor is this a comprehensive list.

 

Question

Reason for Consideration

Potential Consequence of Approval

Applicant Information

How long has the applicant owned the property?

 

  • Applicants who have recently purchased agricultural parcels and have not attempted to farm or improve the land may not be committed to using the ALR parcel for agriculture.
  • Encourages short-term land owners to apply for non-agricultural land uses.

Parcel Information

Is the property currently used for agriculture?

 

  • If the land is currently used for agriculture, there must be compelling justification for it to be used for a non-farm purpose, or to subdivide or exclude.
  • Loss of current productive agricultural land.

What is the agricultural capability?

 

  • Prime agricultural land is scarce and extremely valuable. Some secondary classification land can be improved to prime, while other types of agriculture require large tracts of secondary class land for pasture and forage crops.

 

  • Consider agricultural capability of the land with and without improvements before allowing a proposal based on poor agricultural capability.
  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land.

Have there been any attempted agricultural improvements to the property?1,3

 

  • The Commission considers whether an effort to improve the land has been attempted.

 

  • The Commission is concerned with whether improvements are possible, now or in future, regardless of the current landowner’s interest in undertaking them.
  • The Commission considers whether an effort to improve the land has been attempted.

Is the property suitable for agriculture?1,3,4

 

 

 

 

 

  • If the land is suitable for agricultural use (regardless of current use) it should be retained in the ALR.
     
  • The Commission considers suitability for soil bound and non-soil bound agriculture.
     
  • Economic viability is not a significant factor in determining benefit or suitability for farm use; that position would inevitability lead to the erosion of the ALR based on prevailing (changing) economic conditions
  • Loss of potentially productive agricultural land.

What types of land uses surround the property?1

 

  • The application should not adversely affect surrounding agricultural operations.
     
  • Surrounding non-agricultural activities may affect the use or suitability of the subject parcel for agriculture.
     
  • Aim to minimize any possible rural and residential conflicts either by refusing a potentially detrimental proposal, or by applying conditions to an approval (e.g. fencing, buffering, vegetative screening, restrictive covenants, etc).
  • Negatively impact surrounding agricultural operations, or, create conflict between rural and residential uses.

Proposal Information

Does the proposal encourage or enhance agriculture or agri-business in the short or long-term?

 

  • The purposes of the commission as stated in s. 6 of the ALC Act are:
    • to preserve agricultural land;
    • to encourage farming on agricultural land in collaboration with other communities of interest;
    • to encourage local governments, first nations, the government and its agents to enable and accommodate farm use of agricultural land and uses compatible with agriculture in their plans, bylaws and policies.

 

  • Heightens expectations for non-agricultural land uses in the ALR, loss of land for agricultural use.

Could this proposal be accommodated on lands outside of the ALR, or on an alternative site within the ALR that is less capable or suitable for agriculture?

  • Any non-agricultural use within the ALR needs to be compatible and/or clearly justified. Once agricultural land is lost, it is rarely ever reclaimed to agricultural use.
     
  • ALR land is often less expensive than non-ALR lands but this does not justify its use for non-farm purposes.
  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land.

Will the proposal remove agricultural land?

  • The purpose of the Commission includes the preservation of agricultural land. This includes preservation of land regardless of whether it is currently used or unused but has potential for future use.
  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land.

Does the proposal/application ensure that land is available for farm use if changed circumstances in the future require it?1,2

  • Once agricultural land is used for non-agricultural purposes, it may be difficult to reclaim or convert to agricultural use.
  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land.

Is a non-adhering residential use necessary for, or supportive of, farm use?

  • Non-adhering residential uses should be commensurate with the type and scale agriculture taking place on the property. Some intensive agricultural activities and livestock require on-site farm help either seasonally or year round.
     
  • The ALC has consistently considered residential uses based on:
    • current level of agriculture on the property (e.g. intensive agricultural operations)
    • number of people involved in agriculture on the property (i.e. most or all of the people in the residences are involved with agriculture on the property)
    • minimizing the loss of arable land (i.e. size and siting of residence)

 

  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land

 

  • Risk that additional residences on ALR land can be used for residential purposes unrelated to farming activities in the future if agricultural use of the property is not maintained

Will the size and siting of the residential use minimize the impact to ALR land?

  • Clustering residences may be preferred in some instances so that configuration of the residences doesn’t encourage a future subdivision application. (e.g. locating residences for “farm help” close to farm infrastructure).
  • Loss of current or potentially productive agricultural land.

Is the ALC able to approve the application or does the ALC Act or regulations require that it reject the application?

  • Section 25 of the ALC Act says the ALC must not grant permission for an additional residence unless the additional residence is necessary for a farm use; regulations may also specify circumstances in which the Commission must reject an application.

 

Local Government Information

How does the proposal relate to the local government’s Agricultural Plans, Official Community Plan, and bylaws?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The ALC Act requires local governments to ensure its bylaws (Growth Strategies, OCPs and zoning bylaws, etc.) are consistent with the Act, failing which they are of no force and effect.
     
  • Local governments have the ability to stop applications from proceeding to the Commission in certain instances where a proposal is contrary to local land use planning. The ALC Act provides that if an application applies to land that is zoned for agricultural or farm use or requires an amendment to a plan or bylaw, the application may not proceed unless it is authorized by the local government.
     
  • The Commission considers local government recommendations from the region of application.

What are the recommendations from the Board/Council, Agricultural Advisory Committee, Advisory Planning Committee, and Planning Staff of the local government?

 

  1. Brentwood Pioneer Holdings Ltd. v. British Columbia (Agricultural Land Commission), 1998 CanLII 2663 (BCSC)
  2. Brentwood Pioneer Holdings Ltd. v. British Columbia (Agricultural Land Commission), 2000 BCCA 320
  3. Kandola v. British Columbia (Agricultural Land Commission), 2016 BCSC 2511
  4. Bustin v. British Columbia (Agricultural Land Commission), 2016 BCSC 1869