The Veerman farm in the Lyman Hill area in north Canoe has been given approval by the Agricultural Land Commission to construct an outbuilding with a residential suite. The site of the proposed building is in blue. (City of Salmon Arm image)

Approval of second home on agricultural land surprises Salmon Arm council

City politicians happy with decision, province announces plan to loosen restrictions

A decision by the Agricultural Land Commission to allow a detached suite on farmland near Canoe left Salmon Arm council pleasantly surprised.

Brenda and Ron Veerman applied to the commission to construct an implement/utility shed for storage and livestock with a 39.1 square metre (959 square foot) residential suite attached to it on their property in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The purpose of the additional residence at 6740 56 St. NE in the Lyman Hill area is for the Veermans’ son and spouse to live on the property and help with the farm operation.

The ALC Act states the commission can’t grant permission for an additional residence unless it is necessary for farm use. The commission panel also looks at whether the size and siting of the additional residence would impact the agricultural utility of a property.

Following a site visit in October, the panel decided that yes, the additional residence has the potential to support the expansion of the farm and increase the ability to produce farm products. Regarding siting, it found the second residence would not encroach upon the farm operation and could improve monitoring of livestock. As for size, the panel described the total residential footprint of 220 square metres for the two houses as minimal and one which preserves the rest of the land for agricultural use.

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Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, told city council on Jan. 27 that while the city’s zoning bylaw allows detached suites in agricultural zones and the official community plan supports them, when people come to city hall wanting detached suites on agricultural land, staff let them know “their chances are slim” of getting ALC approval.

Coun. Tim Lavery, chair of the city’s agricultural advisory committee, said council has seen the ALC be fairly strict in the past and he was pleasantly surprised by the decision.

“I know we have been cynical about the hardening of the interpretation of the rules, but this one, they’ve seemed to focus on that family planning access. I think it’s good news, I think we will see future applications where the genuineness of framing it as family farming is going to be questioned…”

Mayor Alan Harrison pointed to the depth of the panel’s report, which listed the number of sheep, chickens, pigs, ducks and more on the farm.

Coun. Kevin Flynn described himself as the councillor who least expected a positive report, so he is “extremely happy” and hopes it will be a model for future family succession applications.

Read more: Government proposes dropping regional ALC panels

Read more: B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren said she participated in the agricultural tour at the Union of BC Municipalities convention, along with Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. Popham was asked about family members moving onto farms and she said the government is strongly in favour.

“When I mentioned that at this council table everybody was like, ‘yep, that’s not happening,’” said Lindgren, “so I’m hopeful maybe this is the government directing the ALC closer to what they had in mind.”

Lindgren may be right. On the heels of the Dec. 5 Veerman decision comes a news release from the provincial Ministry of Agriculture on new residential options for agricultural land.

“In order to support farmers and non-farmers living in the ALR, government is considering regulatory changes to enable landowners to have both a principal residence and a small secondary residence on their property, provided they have approval from their local government,” states the Jan. 27 news release.

ALR property owners would not be required to apply to the ALC for approval.

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