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 General Regulation and Agricultural Land Reserve Use Regulation were approved by B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor in Council, bringing into force changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act under Bill 52 – 2018. The following Frequently Asked Questions provide further details on both process and intent of the legislative changes.
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’ separation of the ALR for improved decision making and protection of this vital provincial land reserve for the benefit of agricultural production
Q2: What changes were made to the definition of ‘farm use’? Why?
A: Two substantive changes have been made to the definition of “farm use”:
- Previously, the definition of ‘farm use’ explicitly referred to the “farming of land, plants and animals” and did not include mushrooms and truffles because they are fungi, not plants. They have now been properly accounted for and have been added to the definition of farm use to support these forms of agricultural food production on the ALR.
- The definition of “farm use” will now specifically exclude residential uses and soil or fill uses. By doing this, the amendments have created a new four-stream approach to land use in the ALR, allowing for the clear delineation and regulation of each.
The four land use streams are: farm use; non-farm use; residential use; and soil or fill use.
Q3: Do these amendments provide any further guidance on cannabis production on the ALR?
A: No, they do not. The Cannabis production amendment to the Regulation released in July 2018 has not changed.
Q1: What specific exceptions that were available to residents living in Zone 2 of the ALR have been eliminated?
A: There were two situations where the regulation had different rules for land in Zone 2 which are no longer available:
- It permitted a second single family dwelling, but only if the parcel is at least 50 ha in size and if the total area occupied by all residences and other residential structures, roads and service lines, and all land between them, is 4 000 m2 or less; and
- It permitted a retired farmer to stay on the land in their own house by leasing back the small portion of land that includes the residence.
Q1: 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 may forward the ALC any application for a ‘non-adhering’ residential use, for ALC review and decision. Refer to Information Bulletin 5: Residences in the ALR for details on permitted uses, grandfathering provisions, and applications.
Q2: 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 ALC 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 a decision.
Q1: 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.
Q2: 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 ALR General Regulation is $150.
Q3: What compliance and enforcement tools are available to an ALC Compliance and Enforcement (C&E) Officer if illegal fill is brought into the ALR? What penalties will exist for illegal dumping in the ALR?
A: The changes make it an offence 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 offence to place fill of a different type or in a volume exceeding what was set out in the Notice of Intent.
Adding these offence provisions enables the issuing of violation tickets in the future, which will be a more immediate and effective deterrent. C&E officers are able to enter any land, other than a dwelling house, without a warrant to ensure compliance with the Act.
These amendments strengthen the compliance and enforcement tools for the ALC. For a first offence, landowners could be subject to a fine of up to $1 million, imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both. The penalties double for subsequent offences.
Q4: What role will local governments have in the new Notice of Intent provisions for fill? Will applications go directly to the ALC?
A: A Notice of Intent for soil/fill will be submitted directly to the ALC. The ALC recognizes that local governments have particular knowledge and expertise that may help inform whether to approve the proposed fill, and so in reviewing the notice, the CEO may choose to consult with local governments. Landowners will still be responsible for obtaining approval from their local government if fill bylaws are in place.
All Soil & Fill Use applications to the ALC must first be endorsed by a local government resolution before it can be forwarded to the ALC for consideration. This reflects the current application process.
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
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