The Agricultural Land Commission is reviewing Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) boundaries in RDEK Areas E and B. In Area E, the ALR is looking at properties from Kimberley to Skookumchuk and St. Mary Lake and parts of Wycliffe. In Area B, the area is roughly described as Jaffray to Grasmere.
Public meetings have been scheduled. For Area B, the meeting is called for 7 p.m. on Wednesday November 18, 2015. The meeting will be held at the Jaffray Community Hall. For Area E, the hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday November 19, 2015. The meeting will be held at the Wasa Community Hall.
According to the ALC, the purpose of an ALR boundary review is to refine the ALR boundaries in a particular geographic area so that they encompass land that is both capable and suitable for agricultural use.
Discussion is already beginning in the community as there is some confusion as to what criteria were used to determine whether a property will be excluded or not. For instance, in the Meadowbrook area, one property has received a letter saying it is being considered for exclusion, while a neighbour received no such letter.
Area E Director Jane Walter says that the RDEK really has had no input as to what is being excluded and what is not.
“I was quite distressed to read the letter that said the ALC was working with us, but they weren’t,” Walter said. “We knew it was coming but when we finally got the maps, some properties that we thought were coming out, didn’t, and some properties came out, when we thought they were staying in.
“It seems decision making went on size and unfortunately didn’t look at what type of soil or access to water.”
There are both pros and cons to being within the ALR. If you are within it, subdividing your property is next to impossible. If your property is pulled out, there are tax issues.
“If you are within the ALC, you’ve been getting a tax benefit,” Walter said. “By being pulled out, you will no longer get that benefit.”
Walter said she didn’t know the dollar value of that benefit.
She does agree that there are some properties that don’t belong in the ALR.
“I do have struggles with a one or two acre place being in the ALR. You can’t farm a property that small. Some 10-acre properties, you could be farming.”
Her issue, she says, is that she really doesn’t understand how the decisions as to which properties are in and which are out, were made.
“There was no driving around and looking that I know of,” she said.
The Bulletin has reached out for comment to Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and a spokesperson for the ALC, and will follow up when those comments are received.