The Ministry of Agriculture open to the idea of increasing flexibility for secondary residences on farm land. (File photo)

Bulkley Valley farmers welcome proposed changes to ALR

Province asking for input on increasing flexibility for secondary residences on farm land

The Ministry of Agriculture is proposing some policy changes for use in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The changes are designed to increase residential flexibility within the ALR.

The Ministry is now looking for feedback from the public on policy changes.

Last year the Ministry was going to make amendments to protect the ALR for farming including limiting the size of primary residences, restricting the removal of soil, increasing penalties for dumping harmful fill and reunifying the ALR as a single zone.

Another change that promoted public concern was a phase-out of a long-standing previous rule that had allowed ALR landowners to place a small secondary residence in the ALR without the Agricultural Land Commission’s approval, so long as it was a manufactured home for immediate family members.

According to a press release from the Ministry, they heard more flexibility is needed for residences in the ALR and delayed the roll out of the amendments.

Regional District of Bulkley Nechako Director Mark Fisher said these changes are necessary to support farmers in the north.

“The face of farming is changing,” he said. “It isn’t simply family farms being passed down anymore.”

The Ministry is now considering a change to regulations that will enable landowners in the ALR to have both a principal residence and a small secondary residence on their property, provided they have approval from their local government. The change in policy would also mean the province would not require the secondary residence to be a manufactured home, be for an immediate family member or part of a farming plan.

“From what I’ve heard over the years both as an elected official representing farmers and also being involved in the farming community, the flexibility is definitely needed for farm operation and part of that is housing workers and family,” added Fisher. “Opening the possibility for more sustainable farming is necessary.”

Co-owner and operator at Bulkley Canyon Ranch and Hazelton Hops Laurie Gallant agreed that more flexibility is needed when it comes to secondary residences. She said that given the unpredictable weather that a farmer is so dependent on for crops and animal forage every little bit helps.

“We are on ALR land and have enough chores to do without the extra hoops to jump through to have a second residence on our property,” she said. “Many of the ALR restrictions just don’t apply up here in the northern half of the province. I think farmers should be encouraged to be enterprising and creative in their effort to stay in business, and if that means renting out a cabin on their property, or having a family member move in to reduce time spent providing support to them, travel time for example, then what is wrong with that?”

Fisher said being able to have a secondary residence can also help with the housing crisis.

“We don’t want to open the doors for all kind of residential properties but I think there is room to look at rural properties having a role in the solution of the housing crisis.”

He said it is important for the public and local stakeholders to give input on the Ministry’s proposed changes.

“The more people giving feedback the better. When the Province did the changes early last year, it wasn’t well received and part of that is that they didn’t really consult. Now they’ve done the community engagement with different stakeholders and the general public and that is why we are seeing a different direction. They heard people and it isn’t too late to be heard.”

People can give feed back by emailing ALR_ALCRevitalization@gov.bc.ca, or by writing the Minister of Agriculture at PO Box 9043 Victoria BC V8W 9E2, or by calling the AgriServiceBC line at 1 888 221-7141.

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