Canada: Upcoming Changes In land Use Planning

Last Updated: April 12 2014
Article by Olga Rivkin and Erika Lambert

The legislature recently introduced for first reading amendments to the Agricultural Land Commission Act and the Local Government Act which, if adopted into law, will (among other things) streamline development of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and insulate in-stream development projects from increases in development cost charges.

Proposed Amendments to the Agricultural Land Commission Act

The legislature recently introduced for first reading Bill 24 to amend the Agricultural Land Commission Act ("ALCA"). If Bill 24 becomes law, land-use decisions under ALCA will be made by regional panels taking into account (in some areas) economic and planning objectives.

Bill 24 contemplates that the Agricultural Land Reserve will be conceptually divided into two zones: Zone 1 and Zone 2. Zone 1 will include areas on Vancouver Island, along the Sunshine Coast, in the Okanagan and in the Lower Mainland. Zone 2 will include, primarily, areas in northern and eastern British Columbia. 

Each zone will be composed of "panel regions". For example, the Southcoast Panel Region will include, among other, the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Greater Vancouver Regional District. In each panel region, land use decisions will be made by a panel composed of members of the Agricultural Land Commission who reside in the region.

When making land-use decisions in Zone 2 (but not in Zone 1), the relevant panels will have to consider not only the purposes of the Agricultural Land Commission – to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming – but also economic, cultural and social values and regional and community planning objectives. 

Under the current ALCA, the Commission is not obligated to establish regional panels or to consider economic and planning objectives. The likely purpose of this amendment is to ensure that, especially in resource development areas, the Commission's decisions are grounded in regional socio-economic circumstances.

Proposed Amendments to the Local Government Act

The legislature recently introduced for first reading Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act.  If Bill 17 becomes law, it will, among other things, amend the Local Government Act to insulate in-stream rezoning and development permit applications from increases in development cost charges, and to phase out any remaining land use contracts.

Protection from increase in development cost charges 

Under the current Local Government Act, if a developer applies for a building permit for a project, increases in development cost charges subsequent to such application do not apply to the project for 12 months after the development cost charge bylaw is adopted.   

If Bill 17 becomes law, developers may be able to trigger protection from increases in development cost charges at different stages of the planning process. Bill 17 contemplates that increases in development cost charges will not apply to a project if a developer has applied for either a building permit, a development permit or a rezoning bylaw, and if the building permit for the project is issued within 12 months after the development cost charge bylaw is adopted.

Phasing out land use contracts 

Some lands in British Columbia are subject to land use contracts – agreements between a land owner and a local government about use and development of land which supersede subsequent land use bylaws. 

Under the current Local Government Act, local governments do not have authority to enter into land use contracts; this authority was repealed in 1978. But, land use contracts remain registered on title to some lands, and continue to regulate land use and development of such lands. Local governments have limited ability to discharge or to amend these land use contracts.

If Bill 17 becomes law, all outstanding land use contracts will be terminated – either by a bylaw or by operation of the Local Government Act – by June 30, 2024. Upon such termination, lands used pursuant to a land use contract will have to comply with then current land use bylaws.

We will continue monitoring Bill 17 and Bill 24 as they make their way through the legislature. If you have any questions on any of these developments, do not hesitate to contact any member of our local government group.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Olga Rivkin
Erika Lambert
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