Farm regulator raising fees, adding enforcement

ALC chair Frank Leonard says some farmers waiting two years for a decision, changes to restore 'credibility' to commission

Agricultural Land Commission chair Frank Leonard

The Agricultural Land Commission is imposing a steep increase in application fees, with a “money back guarantee” if applications aren’t processed within 90 business days.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick and ALC chair Frank Leonard announced the new policy at the B.C. legislature Thursday, to take effect April 1.

For zone one, the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan, the application fee goes from $600 to $1,500. In zone two, the remainder of the province, the fee goes from $600 to $900. Letnick said the majority of farm income is generated in zone one, so farmers can afford to pay more.

The increase still doesn’t cover the estimated $3,000 cost of processing an application, most of which are for non-farm use or an exclusion or subdivision of agricultural land. Letnick said the province is adding an additional $1.1 million to the ALC budget to make up the difference.

Leonard, appointed last year after Letnick terminated the contract of long-time chair Richard Bullock, said he found almost no decisions were being made within the 60 working days that is his new benchmark. Most were taking a year or more.

“I met people in their 80s who had been waiting two years for a decision,” he said.

NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham said she’s concerned that the short deadline for commission decisions is a drift toward becoming an “application machine” rather than the ALC’s mandate to protect farmland.

Leonard said subdivision and land exclusion applications mean considerable financial gain for applicants, so the increased fee isn’t a deterrent for them. Letnick said approved non-farm uses can mean extra income for farmers and are a priority for the government.

The ALC has doubled its compliance and enforcement staff to four, and Leonard said the additional budget will allow him to add two more this year.

“Our intention is not only to give the ALC more credibility in terms of enforcing legislation and regulations, but with the budget we have we’ll be able to get them around the province,” Leonard said. “So we won’t have six people in Burnaby waiting for the phone to ring.”

The commission is also adding new fees, $150 for reviewing documents, $350 per site inspection and monitoring fees of $500 to $2,000 annually for sites that require ongoing monitoring such as soil fill and removal or gravel extraction.

 

Just Posted

Ladysmith council dropping paper agenda packages

Town expects to save 50,000 sheets of paper a year by using tablets

EDITORIAL: Housing is one of our basic needs

We all need food, clothing and shelter first

First Nations leader to try for NDP nomination in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, announces intentions

CVRD sets tax increase for 2019 at 7.27%

New water and housing functions make up 3.52 % of increase

Premier makes surprise visit to Ladysmith Art Gallery

John Horgan does an informal meet and greet with Ladysmith arts and community leaders

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher premiums, private insurers say

Minor injury cap, court restrictions take effect April 1 in B.C.

Gallery of hockey stars

Lucky seven from the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C Tournament receive their awards

Trans woman hopes funding cut will send message to B.C. rape crisis group

Rape Relief does not turn transgender women away and often connects them to other services, group says

B.C. sees fourth straight day of record-breaking warmth

Bob Marley said it best: The sun is shining and the weather is sweet

UPDATE: Two avalanches confirmed at Okanagan ski resort, one in hospital

A man has been sent to hospital after an isothermal avalanche at SilverStar March 20

Okanagan man, Yorkshire terrier chased by coyote

Animal sightings have been reported around West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Most Read