In January of 2011, The Ministry of Agriculture released a discussion paper, the Bylaw Standard for Residential Uses in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which presented a draft Minister’s Bylaw Standard and outlined a set of criteria to be used by local governments to regulate siting and size of residential uses within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The ALR is a provincial zone in which agriculture is the priority use; however, local governments regulate residential use, and the expansion of the urban population seeking a rural atmosphere on the outskirts of settlements, and desire for recreational homes has contributed to increasing residential uses in the ALR instead of farm-oriented residential use.
The discussion paper was developed due to growing interest in managing residential uses in the Agricultural Land Reserve. In particular, Metro Vancouver had asked the Minister of Agriculture to limit the size and location of residential footprints on farmland. The development of the discussion paper including the draft Minister’s Bylaw Standard was the first step towards addressing this request. To further refine the Standard, the Ministry sought input from a broad audience through a consultation process that included discussions with local governments, the real estate industry, and agricultural organizations as well as an online survey.
June 1 to July 14, 2011
The Ministry received 835 completed responses to the online survey. The Regional Districts with the highest number of respondents were:
- Metro Vancouver (190)
- Fraser Valley (159)
- Okanagan-Similkameen (110)
The municipal governments with the highest number of respondents were:
- The City of Richmond (59)
- The City of Kelowna (47)
- The City of Vancouver and Township of Langley (42 each)
More than 45% of survey respondents own property in the Agricultural Land Reserve and more than 42% live on property in the ALR. This stands in contrast to an estimate that roughly 15% of the province’s population lives in rural areas. Similarly, 35% of survey respondents are farmers, while farmers only constitute about 1.5% of the province’s population.
Major findings in this report include:
- More than 87% of survey respondents support farming as the priority use in the ALR;
- More than 87% of survey respondents believe that residential uses can impact farming activities in the ALR;
- More than 77% of survey respondents support requiring residences in the ALR to be located in a way that minimizes their impact on the agricultural capability of the parcel;
- More than 78% of survey respondents support requiring residences in the ALR to be located near the road (given that variance would be possible in special situations);
- More than 73% of survey respondents support specifying the maximum area of an ALR parcel that can be used for residential uses (also known as the footprint). 3;
- More than 67% of the survey respondents support specifying the maximum size of the residences on ALR parcels;
- Considered together, the previous three findings indicate support for the three levels of restriction presented in the discussion paper. At more than 78% of survey respondents, there is more support establishing setbacks (level one) than footprint restrictions (about 73%), a component of level two, and establishing a maximum residence size (about 67%), a component of level three;
- More than 42% of survey respondents prefer an approach to restricting residential uses that is a “…combination such that a province-wide regulation with minimum requirements would exist along with additional standards administered by local governments.” In addition, over 73% of respondents prefer an approach that includes a province-wide regulation;
- Twelve percent of farmers who support farming as the priority use in the ALR do not think that residential uses impact farming activities, in contrast to only 3% of non-farmers.
In addition, 18 people emailed, phoned, or sent letters to Ministry staff during the survey period.
Input leads to action:
- The September 2011 Discussion Paper and Minister’s Bylaw Standard incorporates the feedback received on the January 2011 Discussion Paper.
- The most up-to-date Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas was produced in 2015.