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Saturday, December 18, 2010

B.C. Agricultural Land Commission prohibition on non-farm use upheld

Tree to Me Agricultural Products Inc. applied to the regional district of Okanagan Similkameen to have a 0.75 hectare portion of its lands designated for non-farm use.  The regional district referred the matter on to the Agricultural Land Commission.  The Commission granted the application on specific terms.  However, later the Commission revoked some of the terms and yet left in tact the requirement that Tree to Me register on title to the lands a covenant prohibiting the construction of any structures on the remainder of the property, which measured approximately 15.2 hectares.

Tree to Me applied for judicial review of that decision in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Tree to Me had plans to develop the property, including plans for a proposed building.  The first floor of the building would be devoted to retail operations related to its production of fresh fruits and vegetables. The second floor of the building would include a residential suite for the manager, bed and breakfast units, and sleeping areas for workers.

The court found that the Commission had the ability to designate the building proposal as a non-farm use given the “excessive number of residential units”.  Also, the Commission found that, “absent sufficient evidence, the Commission is well within its rights to impose no-billed and other covenants, in appropriate cases, as part and parcel of regulating the use and development of agricultural lands in order to achieve its statutory object of preserving such lands.”  The standard of review for the Commission’s decision is one of reasonableness.  The court found, in the end, that Tree to Me had not satisfied the onus of showing that the decision of the Commission was unreasonable.  Therefore, Tree to Me’s petition against the prohibition on non-farm uses on the balance of its property was dismissed.

Read the decision at: Tree To Me Agricultural Products Inc. v. British Columbia (Agricultural Land Commission).