The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board voted unanimously for a new policy to accept applications to the Agricultural Land Commission for property exclusions from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (File photo)

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board voted unanimously for a new policy to accept applications to the Agricultural Land Commission for property exclusions from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (File photo)

Downloading frustration: Columbia Shuswap Regional District to handle land reserve applications

Applications for exclusions in electoral areas to go through regional district

With some resentment the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board adopted a new policy for handling applications from electoral areas for property exclusions in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

In a Jan. 10 news release, the regional district provided information to the public about the new policy for applications originating in CSRD rural areas, which must now be submitted to the regional district.

The policy includes a three-stage process, beginning with an application’s submission in Stage 1. This stage includes a $650 fee to initiate the process, which includes CSRD staff reviewing the property and presenting its findings to the board. It is then up to the board to decide if the application should proceed to Stage 2 – public consultation. At this point, the applicant is required to pay a $1,000 fee to cover consultation requirements as outlined by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). Later, staff present the results of Stage 2 to the board, which may then pass a resolution to forward the application to the ALC. This too is accompanied by a fee: $750, which is what the ALC charges the CSRD for the submission.

The policy received the board’s unanimous approval at its Dec. 9 meeting, during which staff explained why the CSRD now finds itself responsible for receipt of applications intended for the ALC.

In March 2019, Bill 15, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act 2019, was introduced to “strengthen the independence” of the ALC so it could “better fulfill its mandate of preserving” the ALR. One of the changes introduced required exclusions to be submitted to the ALC only by local governments, First Nations or the province. As of Sept. 30, private landowners could no longer make an application for exclusion.

Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin said when she heard this announcement she was concerned with how the work, and related responsibility, was being dumped on local government.

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“What I am concerned about is that we will get the backlash,” said Martin, referring to applications that may not make it beyond Stage 1. “It’s not our fault, they have just said this is how it’s going to be and we are trying to make a process available that’s easy to understand and give people some guidelines with which to work.”

Other directors made comments about provincial government downloading, including CSRD chair Kevin Flynn, who called this “one of the worst downloads I’ve seen in… my five terms.”

“Not only is it downloading on us of cost and responsibility… It’s also downloading the frustration of the taxpayer on our department,” said Flynn.

Flynn’s fellow City of Salmon Arm councillor, director Tim Lavery, agreed it is downloading, but noted that unless there’s something egregious about an application, they are seldom stalled at the local government level.

“I just point out it’s not too often that local governments actually reject this as it goes along,” said Lavery. “We pass it on, rightly or wrongly, to the ALC…”

Staff noted that in past practice, applications for exclusion or non-farm use were submitted to the board for comment, though final say rests with the ALC. Now a local government can stop an application at Stage 1.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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Agricultural Land ReserveColumbia Shuswap Regional District