B.C. Land Commission Funding, Powers Boosted

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BC AGRICULTURAL LAND
Houses in a suburb are built right up against a farm field in greater Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Competing land needs and uses pit rural against urban supporters. The farm workers were harvesting carrots. | CP

VICTORIA - The B.C. agency in charge of protecting farmland will get new power and extra funding under legislation introduced in Victoria on Monday.

Agriculture Minister Don McRae says the bill will make the Agricultural Land Commission more sustainable and more proactive when it comes to saving farmland, and that in turn will help expand opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Under the changes, the commission gets more money and more enforcement powers, including the right to slap a five-year moratorium on repeat applications to exclude acreage from the land reserve.

The commission will also work more closely with municipalities on land issues instead of just reacting to applications, and its website will be updated so people can keep better track of such applications.

In addition, the government will draft a standard for municipal bylaws that cover residential uses of property in the land reserve.

The changes are based on recommendations made in separate reviews of the land commission done by B.C.'s auditor general and the commission's chairman.

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