On September 30, 2020 important changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act, [SBC 2002] Chapter 36 and the associated regulations came into force that may significantly affect the prospects for removal of private land from the Agricultural Land Reserve ("ALR"). These changes are of particular note to private owners of ALR lands slated for future development. The Province has characterized the changes as part of a larger response intended to curtail non-agricultural use of ALR land such as construction of mansions and dumping of illegal fill.
Before September 30, 2020, a private land owner could apply directly to the Agricultural Land Commission ("Commission") for removal of land from the ALR without the need to make the application through a local government. A local government could apply to the Commission for removal of private land in its jurisdiction from the ALR provided the Commission obtained the private land owner's consent. As of September 30, 2020, both of these application mechanisms have been fundamentally changed.
The private land owner can no longer apply directly to the Commission for removal of land from the ALR, but must instead seek the agreement of the local government for such removal, and rely on the local government to make the application for removal to the Commission.1
Moreover, the consent of a private land owner is no longer required for the Commission to exclude private land from the ALR under an application brought by a local government (even an application that is pending). The private land owner must instead make any concerns with removal known at the mandatory public hearing held by the local government, and may also have a later opportunity to voice those concerns at a mandatory Commission meeting, but only if the Commission considers it advisable to notify the private land owner of and involve the owner in the meeting.
While the impact of these changes on the propensity of the Commission to exclude private land from ALR for development remains to be seen, it seems clear that control over the application process has shifted from private land owners to local government. Private owners wishing to have their land excluded will likely face a higher bar given the need for local government support. On the flip side, private owners wishing to keep their land in the ALR no longer have a veto on applications initiated by a local government.
1. Note that a private owner can still apply directly to the Commission for permission for a non-farm use of ALR land pursuant to s. 20 of the Act.
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