The decision in Kelt concerned property tax assessment
(and, consequently, property taxation) of land being developed as a
farm. In particular, the question was whether an owner of a
developing (but not yet operational) farm had to meet a projected
harvest date. Based on the decision in Kelt, the
answer is "no". To maintain their farm status,
owners of developing farms are not required to comply with their
projected harvest date.
Local governments may see the effects of this decision in an
increase in the number of properties classified as a farm and,
consequently, paying lower property taxes.
The situation in Kelt was simple. Bruce and
Dorothy Kelt wished to develop a Christmas tree farm on their
property. In 1997, they applied to the Assessor for farm
status classification. The application included a development
plan which indicated projected revenue of $2,500/year after a
projected harvest date of 2003. The Assessor classified the
property as a farm for the 1998 assessment roll.
The operation struggled: the Christmas trees were dying
and the revenues were not rising. The projected harvest date
was modified a few times and, when the 2012 the harvest date still
did not materialize, the Assessor notified the Kelts that their
property will be assessed as residential. That would result
in an increase in property taxes.
The Kelts complained to the Property Assessment Review Panel,
which sided with the Assessor, and then appealed the decision of
the Panel to the Property Assessment Appeal Board. The Board
also sided with the Assessor, and the Kelts appealed to the British
Columbia Supreme Court.
The legal issue came down to the interpretation of section 8 of
the Classification of Land as a Farm
Regulation 411/95. This section deals with
assessment of land under development as a farm. Among other
things, section 8(7) requires that: "the assessor has approved
a development plan ... that ... includes location and details of
the crop to be planted, area, date of planting, expected yield,
selling price and date of harvest."
In the Board's view, this requirement meant that the owner
must comply with the harvest date projected in the development
plan. "[T]o conclude otherwise would allow a property
owner to remain a developing farm in perpetuity by continually
amending their projected harvest date and never meeting the gross
annual value requirement." (see paragraph 13 of the
The Court disagreed concluding that the Kelts complied with the
Farm Regulation by submitting the development plan for
approval and having the plan approved by the Assessor. The
Farm Regulation did not require them to follow or meet the
projected harvest date of the development plan. The Court
ordered that the Board direct the Assessor to amend the assessment
Unfortunately, the Court did not substantively address the
Board's concern that the objective of the legislation would be
thwarted if the projected harvest date could be continually
revised. To that effect, the Court stated only that:
 Laws must be clear and intelligible to
allow individuals to know their rights and obligations. The Board
was nevertheless of the view that the objective of the legislation
would be thwarted if the projected harvest date could be
continually revised, and land under development as a farm could
remain classified as such indefinitely. In my view, this
observation by the Board cannot serve to confer jurisdiction on the
Assessor to impose an additional requirement for farm
classification unsupported by the language of the Act or the Farm
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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