The ALR is a provincial land use zone created in 1973 that places agricultural activities above all other land uses within the zone. Planning within and around the ALR involves a number of regulatory statutes, including:
The ALR has acted as a boundary protecting farmland from urban sprawl since 1973. In comparison to Seattle, which has no farmland preservation zoning, growth in the Greater Vancouver region has been contained well within city limits.
The Agricultural Land Commission oversees the ALR and rules on applications to exclude land from the ALR, include land into the ALR, and for permission to subdivide ALR land or use it for non-farm uses. The ALC is made up of 6 regional panels of 3 commissioners, plus a Chair.
Despite having been in existence for over 30 years, however, the ALR continues to be threatened by urbanization. Local governments and private landowners can apply to the Agricultural Land Commission to:
- permanently exclude land from the ALR by rezoning it for industrial, commercial, or residential use
- sub-divide larger pieces of the ALR into smaller parcels, which limits the types of farming that can occur and in some cases is a middle step to eventually having the land excuded.
- pursue “non-farming” uses on the ALR land, which may or may not be monitored to ensure compliance with the ALC Act
Recent changes to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) by the BC government have raised two critical issues. 1) The term “community need” has infiltrated the ALC’s service plan since 2002. This term has since been used as a decision-making criteria for exclusion applications, such as:
2) Also in 2002, the ALC was decentralized from a large group of Commissioners from around the province making decisions on applications together, into six regional 3-member panels. We are concerned that these small, local panels has lead to discrepancies in decision-making between regions and may place undue stress on panellists from supporters of ALR exclusion applications.