Frequently Asked Questions - About the ALR
In order to determine whether or not your property is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), you will need to know the legal description of your property. The description can be found on the Certificate of Title or your tax or assessment notice. Give this information to your local government office and they will determine whether or not your property is in the ALR. If there is any doubt as to the ALR status or if you are going to be making financial or investment decisions and require confirmation of the ALR status or the exact location of the ALR boundary, you should contact the Agricultural Land Commission office, Geographic Information Systems.
Where can I get a copy of an ALR map?
Your local government office may have copies of ALR maps for their area and may be able to provide you with a copy. The Commission does not have facilities to produce copies of ALR maps but it has a distributor from which ALR maps can be purchased. It is helpful to know the regional district and the mapsheet number when you place an order.
The Commission is presently converting its ALR mapping from 1:50,000 NTS Base (and constituent) maps to 1:20 000 TRIM-based maps. (See Index of ALR Maps.)
If your property is in the ALR, it means that it is subject to the Agricultural Land Commission Act which was established to preserve agricultural land for present and future generations and to encourage the establishment and maintenance of farms as a secure source of food.
The ALR can be thought of as a provincial land use zone in which agriculture is recognized as the priority use. Farming is encouraged and non-agricultural uses are regulated. If you wish to subdivide or use your land for non-farm purposes or exclude your land from the ALR, you must submit an application to the Commission and obtain its approval.
Should you wish to make an application, contact your local government office (i.e. the municipality, regional district or Islands Trust office in which your property is located). Information may also be obtained from the Agricultural Land Commission office.
There are 4 types of applications:
Application forms are available from your local government office or the Agricultural Land Commission office and can also be downloaded from this site (see Forms).
Application fees vary depending on the type of application you are making (see Fees). The fees represent a portion of the costs involved in processing your application. A portion of the application fee is retained by the local government and the balance of the fee is submitted to the Agricultural Land Commission office.
Application fees are non refundable. However, in instances where the local government does not authorize your application to proceed to the Commission, the portion of the fee normally submitted to the Commission is returned to you. In cases of hardship, there are provisions to waive the application fees. Ask for information on the Commission's policy on Waiving of Fees to determine if you qualify.
The Commission strives to process your application within 90 days of receipt. However, the length of time to process your application depends on the type of application and its complexity. Delays can occur if your application is incomplete or does not have the necessary documents or fee enclosed. Delays may also occur if the Commission feels it requires additional information such as an on-site inspection of your property by its staff agrologist or members of the Commission.
Additional information may also be required from the local government or other government agencies.
Most types of applications are submitted directly to the local government office, which, in turn, forwards your application to the Commission.
You will be notified of the Commission's decision on your application by letter. The Commission has a policy of not relaying its decisions over the phone in order to avoid any misinterpretation or misunderstanding as in many instances, decisions are complex and contain extensive rationale and stipulations.
Telephone calls to staff asking for this information only adds to delays as the time spent advising you that the information cannot be given over the phone and the reasons for this take away from the time staff can spend on processing your application.
The information the Commission considers is noted in the Applicant's Information Package which can be obtained from your local government office. The chances of success of your application depend entirely on the specific circumstances involved. The more information you supply, the better the Commission can understand your request. How does your proposal benefit agriculture? Does your proposal impact negatively on the potential for farming in your area? How does your proposal relate to the responsibility of the Commission to preserve agricultural lands? These issues are paramount to the Commission's decision.
If your application is refused, it will not be reconsidered by the Commission unless there is new evidence that was not available at the time of its original decision, or if the decision was based on evidence that was in error or false.
There is no avenue for appeal except on a question of law or excess of jurisdiction by way of stated case to the Supreme Court. The remedies of the Judicial Review Procedures Act also apply.
The Commission consists of a minimum of seven members. The Chair and Vice-Chairs are appointed by Cabinet. Other members of the Commission are appointed by the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management. The Commissioners are knowledgeable in agriculture, land use planning and local government.
Currently there are 19 Commissioners. The Commission has created 6 Regional Panels to carry out the duties of the Commission and to represent the Commission in different areas of BC. Each panel consists of 3 Commissioners from that region, one of which is a Vice-Chair of the Commission and serves as Chair of the Regional Panel.
Each Commission panel will be present in a panel region up to 4-5 times a year. The frequency of Commission meetings is dependent on the number of applications and other issues involving the ALR in a particular panel region.
Not unless the proposed use or subdivision is one that is allowed by the Agricultural Land Commission Act or Regulations or has been specifically approved by the Commission by way of an application.
Local government bylaws and the Agricultural Land Commission Act regulate the use of ALR lands. If an approval is granted by the Commission, you must still comply with the local government regulations as well as any other legislation that may apply to your proposal.
Not necessarily. The Commission values the opinion of local governments but it may disagree.
There is no minimum parcel size established by the Commission for lands within the ALR. While local government subdivision and zoning bylaws may establish minimum parcel sizes, this does not necessarily mean that the Commission will approve an application to subdivide to the parcel size permitted by local zoning.
One single family dwelling per land registry parcel is permitted within the ALR. In addition, one secondary suite within a single family dwelling and one manufactured home up to 9 m in width, for use by the owner's immediate family are also permitted, unless otherwise prohibited by a local government bylaw. Additional permanent dwellings may be permitted if they are required for full time, legitimate, bone fide farm operations.
Any other dwellings require an application under the ALCA.
There is no time limit on an approval of the Commission unless specifically noted as a condition of approval. The approval runs with the land and therefore is transferable to subsequent owners of the land unless stipulated otherwise as a condition of the approval.
What is the soil classification or agriculture capability rating of my property?
The Commission uses the Land Capability Classification System for Agriculture in British Columbia and where this mapping is not available, the Canada Land Inventory mapping, to determine the agricultural capability of land. Both systems identify land according to its potential and limitations for agriculture using a rating system of Class 1 to 7. Information on the agriculture capability classification of your property can be obtained from the Geographic Information Department of the Commission. Staff will need to know the legal description of your property in order to provide this information.
Your local government office may also
have this information.
Requests for capability mapping should be forwarded through
Other resources for soil information include:
Do I need to make an application to place fill on my property? Do I need to make an application to remove soil from my property?
The Agricultural Land Commission Act specifies that removal of soil and placement of fill are non-farm uses that require the approval of the Commission. However, the Act also specifies that the removal of soil and placement of fill for specified farm and non-farm uses are exempt from the requirements to file an application providing that certain conditions are met. Refer to Part 3 of the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation for further information on farm and non-farm uses involving the placement of fill and removal of soil that qualify for exemption and for details on notification requirements. If your proposal does not qualify for exemption, an application for non-farm use is required.
What is fill?
Land Commission Act defines "fill" as any material brought
onto land in an agricultural land reserve other than materials exempted by
regulation. The Commission's position is that fill is not restricted to soil
materials and can take the form of, but limited to vegetative refuse,
construction debris, concrete, asphalt, metal, etc.
What is soil?
The Agricultural Land Commission Act defines "soil" as the entire mantle of unconsolidated material above bedrock other than minerals as defined in the Mineral Tenure Act.
Do I need a permit to place fill on or remove soil from my property?
There is no requirement under the Agricultural
Land Commission Act for a permit. However, local government bylaws may
require you obtain a permit.
If my proposal to remove soil or place fill is approved by the Commission, can I proceed?
Maybe. The approval of other agencies
such as the local government, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry
of Water, Land and Air Protection may also be required.
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