Chilliwack farmer Chris Kloot welcomed the news this week that the provincial government is easing farmland restrictions in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to allow guest houses or manufactured homes on farm properties.
But while laudable, the move is simply removing restrictions the NDP government put in place two years ago and reinstating what the previous BC Liberal government had made legal.
“I find it somewhat ironic this direction is very similar to the mandate the previous government had in place but was declared in need of an overhaul when this government took power,” Kloot told The Progress. “I guess it goes to show if it’s not necessarily broke don’t try to attempt to fix it.”
As a member of Chilliwack city council and a farmer, Kloot said he does know it can be challenging to strike the correct balance when it comes to rules and regulations.
“I also know that one size doesn’t fit all, so I’m pleased that the provincial government listened to the many concerns of farmers across the province and took this new direction to allow additional flexibility.”
The NDP government put into place restrictions in 2019 in an attempt to crack down on rural “mega-mansions,” secondary residences and on-farm businesses, a move that sparked protests from farmers.
The changes announced this week mean farmers can put rooms over garages, guest houses or manufactured homes without an application to the Agricultural Land Commission.
“Many family farms require secondary homes for a variety of reasons, including providing housing to temporary foreign workers and housing family members that work on the farm,” Kloot said. “Most family farms in Chilliwack are multi-generational and I think it is only right that those family members who contribute to the farm should be able to reside, mentor and work on the farm as they have always done.”
Mayor Ken Popove was similarly pleased with the changes.
“Being able to house family, temporary foreign workers, or allowing agritourism are all important considerations for Chilliwack farmers and I’m glad the province has announced increased housing flexibility that takes those needs into consideration,” Popove said.
BC Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton said the latest changes correct Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s initial mistakes, as outlined in the protests about financial viability of farms received in a consultation round in September 2020 after restrictions were imposed.
– with files from Tom Fletcher
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