Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Proposed changes in the Township to improve farming

The Township of Langley is one of four municipalities in the province where the BC government doesn't allow municipal control of zoning within the Agricultural Land Reserve. This came as a result of provincial right-to-farm legislation, and a Township bylaw which restricted where mushroom farms could be located in the 1990s.

In 2001, the Township of Langley, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Land Commission started a review process to examine all Township bylaws that could impact the ALR. The goal was to make them consistent with provincial farming standards.

This review is now mostly complete, and recommendations on how to make the Township’s bylaws consistent with provincial farming best-practices are being put forward.

Anything dealing with farmland in Langley is going to be controversial. Township of Langley staff is wisely recommending that public education and consultation be a big part of any process that would change Township bylaws.

One of the big changes being proposed is the creation of a single agricultural zone for all lands within the ALR. Right now, there is a mix of zoning which permits non-farming land-use. Any existing non-agricultural uses would be grandfathered. Current building permits would be honoured.

The Township would also change maximum building setbacks for existing and new farm residences. Riparian area protection setbacks would also be introduced.

To be consistent with provincial farming standards, the Township would also relax some of its current land-use regulations to allow for more flexibility for agribusinesses.

To reduce the conflict between agribusiness and urban areas, special regulations are being proposed for land within 300m of an urban/ALR edge.

For ALR lands within 300m of urban land, the following is being proposed:

-Setting limits on the number of animals on different types of farm operations;
-Establishing minimum setbacks from the Urban/ALR edge for buildings, structures and farm operation uses;
-Regulating orientation of exhaust fans to be either parallel to, or away from, the Urban/ALR edge;
-Establishing farm management practices to reduce the impact of normal farm practices, e.g. greenhouse lighting; manure management; and on-farm composting management;
-Implementation of regulations, within 8 years of bylaw adoption, for liquid manure application on crops and grassland to be by sub-canopy deposition method only;
-Implementation of regulations, within 10 years of bylaw adoption, for lighting restrictions for greenhouses; and
-Providing for small scale farm exemptions and some exemptions for unique situations.

For urban land with 300m of an urban/ALR boundary, developers would have to:

-Provide landscape buffering, and agricultural awareness signage along the ALR edge
-Put no-build restrictive covenants into land titles for principal buildings within 15m (industrial commercial or institutional) or 30m (residential) of an ALR edge, and for accessory buildings within 6m (industrial commercial or institutional) or 15m (residential) of an ALR edge
-Put land title notification in regarding the proximity of the ALR, and the potential for disturbances/nuisances from normal farm practices.

The Township and the Ministry of Agriculture also agreed in principle to changes around mushroom farming uses, and its impact along urban edges.

While there are still some outstanding issues that need to be addressed to bring the Township 100% in line with provincial farming standards, one of the biggest outstanding issue is the Salmon River Uplands Area. Because this suburban area has developed in an ad-hoc manner, the urban/ALR boundary guidelines can’t be applied. Township staff and the province are still working out ways of protecting farming while trying to reduce the impact of intensive farming on people who live in the area.

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