A proposal to allow secondary residences on properties within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) would be a good move, according to a local advocate.
Mark Gisborne, a Powell River farmer and qathet Regional District Electoral Area B director, had spoken at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention last September in favour of a resolution that requested the province reconsider some of the changes. In his presentation, Gisborne said he is a young farmer taking over the operation of his family’s farm. He said a secondary dwelling enables senior farmers to stay on the farm and hand over the torch with succession planning.
The province has since announced it is proposing more residential flexibility for people living in the ALR. A provincial media release states that in order to support farmers and non-farmers living in the ALR, government is considering regulatory changes to enable landowners to have both a principal residence and a small secondary residence on their property, provided they have approval from their local government. Property owners in the ALR would not have to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for approval.
“The good news is it looks like they’ve got the message,” said Gisborne. “They understand that maybe it wasn’t the best plan to do those changes without public consultation. It seems like they’ve heard loud and clear that the secondary residence is important for farming.”
According to an online survey conducted by the BC Ministry of Agriculture last fall, many respondents supported the idea of multiple residents on ALR land. For many family-owned farms, multi-generational living arrangements are part of succession planning. In these cases, additional residences allow for a younger generation to learn the family business and can also secure a safe spot for aging farmers to retire and live.
“It was good for farmers from across the province to come out and provide a consistent message,” said Gisborne.
The province is proposing more residential flexibility for people living in the ALR as outlined in a new policy intentions paper released January 27 by the ministry of agriculture.
“We are continuing to do the work necessary to help farmers farm and protect farmland for future generations,” said minister of agriculture Lana Popham. “The ALR is BC’s best food-producing land, and is just five per cent of our province’s land base; it’s so important for food security. The proposed changes, if implemented, would provide additional residential flexibility in the ALR. Publicly sharing this proposed policy direction now gives those interested an opportunity to review and comment, leading to better outcomes.
“Under the proposal, a small secondary residence would be available for farmworkers, family members or anyone else, provided there is local government approval.”
The new ALR residential options and specific conditions with each option such as size, siting and quantity being considered by the government include:
· Garden suites, guest houses or carriage suites
· Accommodation above an existing building
· Manufactured homes
· Permitting a principal residence to be constructed in addition to a manufactured home that was formerly a principal residence
The policy paper resulted from collaborative work with UBCM, the ALC and the BC Agriculture Council, and responds to feedback the ministry heard during recent public consultations. The policy direction is also guided by the results of the minister of agriculture’s advisory committee on ALR revitalization. People are asked to provide their feedback by April 17, 2020, on the residential options via email to ALR_ALCRevitalization@gov.bc.ca.
Gisborne will be providing feedback and bringing the matter up at the regional board meeting in February. He encourages other concerned individuals to also write the advisory committee.
“Powell River farmers can write in and communicate electronically,” said Gisborne.