Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian is concerned impending changes to the way agricultural land exclusion applications are handled in B.C. will “download” work onto municipalities.
The province is planning to eliminate the ability for landowners to apply for exclusions from the Agricultural Land Reserve, instead only allowing municipalities, First Nations and the Agricultural Land Commission to do so.
The issue arose during a recent presentation by the commission to the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.
Christian said the city has 900-plus employees, none of whom are agrologists, noting the city does not intend to hire such employees.
“If you look at Kamloops, there are some very contentious pieces: the McGowan pond, the Dunes golf course, the Tranquille Farm piece,” Christian told the ALC.
“I don’t want those debates to play out in our council chambers when, in fact, there is a higher authority that’s going to make a ruling on that. The way you’ve set this up, this has got to come through the City of Kamloops and it’s going to be messy and we’re not the best qualified to make those determinations you make.”
The board heard that following changes to the ALC in 2018, brought into effect in February, more changes are likely on the way.
Bill 15 was introduced in May and the Ministry of Agriculture is undergoing consultations to learn how it would work at the local government level.
ALC interior regional planner Sara Huber explained the rationale behind changing the process is to allow for better planning and encourage more thoughtful removal of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, rather than removal on a piecemeal basis.
He said the goal is to further protect agricultural land in the province, which is the mandate of the ALC.
Other TNRD directors suggested the commission loosen rules for removing land from the reserve.
Area I director Steven Rice worried that small family farms were not being consulted on changes, at a time when they are already facing challenges.
Area J director Ronaye Elliott said issues like water access make some lower-class agricultural land unusable, meaning land is stuck in the reserve when it could be used for other uses.
“We’re sort of held hostage to individual applications,” Elliott said.
Nine per cent of Interior land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.