KELOWNA - The CEO of the Agricultural Land Commission Kim Grout had to remind Kelowna city councillors they have more power than some of them thought to control decisions on the use of farm land.
“The legislation spells it out, you are first in line and you can halt it right at your council table,” Kim Grout told councillors, on hand with chair Frank Leonard. “An applicant cannot get to the Agricultural Land Commission, except through local government.”
Grout’s comment was a revelation to some councillors, who had previously complained of their lack of control over applications to the Agricultural Land Commission to have farm land rezoned or removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Council’s practice has been to forward all such applications to the commission for a decision, whether they supported it or not, but Leonard said not only is that not required, the result can go against what council has decided.
“You should know if you send it to us, you have to live with either outcome,” Leonard said. “If you don’t want it, don’t send it to us.”
Owners of agricultural land who seek to have land removed from the land reserve must first approach city council and planning staff with an application.
Staff then give their opinion whether council should support the application or not, before it’s forwarded to council for its initIal consideration. If enough councillors support it, the application goes to public hearing before a final decision by council.
But council has been forwarding all applications to the commission, whether they favoured them or not, a practice city manager Ron Mattiussi said has been around since the early days of the land reserve, established in 1973.
“They wanted to distance themselves from the process, they wanted to show they were reluctant to participate,” he said. “Certainly, that was the philosophy back in the days of Jim Stewart and it just carried on over time.”
CEO Grout told council they have the power to kill an application, plus local business licensing requirements and other regulations gives them more power over agricultural land than the commission itself.
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