Category Archives: Farmland

What happens when you don’t meet your farm development plan?

Great trees
If you’re a BC farmer and despite your best efforts you don’t meet your farm plan, your land can’t be  be reclassified as residential, according to a recent BC Supreme Court decision.

The story begins in 1991 when Bruce and Dorothy Kelt bought 4.94 acres of Class 1 – Residential property in Nanaimo, BC.

In 1997 the Kelts applied to BC Assessment to have their land classified as a farm. With their application, the Kelts included a farm development plan estimating annual revenue of at least $2,500 from a tree farm they were planting.

BC Assessment classified the Kelt’s property as “Class 9 – Farm” for 1998.

By 2001 the Kelt’s revenue was lower than the projected $2,500 and at BC Assessment’s request, the Kelts revised their farm development plan again estimating revenue of $2,500 but this time, by 2007.

Trees not doing so wellThe Kelts didn’t meet this target because their trees did poorly. BC Assessment reclassified the Kelt’s land to residential because sales were not $2,500 as required by the Classification of Land as a Farm Regulation, B.C. Reg. 411/95.

The Kelts complained to the Property Assessment Review Panel which hears property assessment complaints. This review panel recommended BC Assessment reclassify the property as a farm. BC Assessment complied.

In 2012, sales were low and BC Assessment again reclassified the land as residential. The Kelts again complained to the Property Assessment Review Panel  which sided with BC Assessment .

The Kelts appealed this decision to the Property Assessment Appeal Board of BC, the second level of appeal for property assessments in British Columbia.

The Appeal Board found the Kelts had not adhered to the requirements of the Farm Regulation by failing to meet their projected harvest date and revenue target in their approved farm plan.

The Kelts appealed this decision to the BC Supreme Court and won.

In her decision, the Hon. Madam Justice Madame Doran found the Property Assessment Appeal Board of BC erred.

She concluded that both the Act and the Farm Regulation are clear that BC Assessment must classify land as a farm where the requirements are met, but nowhere among these requirements is an owner required to follow or in fact meet the projected harvest date of a development plan.

Justice Doran also found the Property Assessment Appeal Board of BC relied on cases submitted by BC Assessment which were based on Farm Regulation s.11 Declassification which was repealed in 2012.

While the case involves one small farm, many small farmers will see it as a game-changer setting a precedent for how BC Assessment classifies farmland.

For information: Canada: Agricultural Law NetLetter, Monday, September 7, 2015 – Issue 331

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Light pollution encroaches on farmlands

Light pollution daylights farm field
Bright lights from house spill on farm field

When residential, commercial and industrial development occurs on or beside farmland and fields, we lose hedgerows, which may include blackberries and wild flowers, and wetlands including sloughs.

This takes away habitat and food sources for pollinator species such as insects, bees, birds and butterflies, as well as for frogs and bats.

Remaining wildlife also face a new problem. Once homes and commercial buildings are ready for occupancy, we’re seeing a disturbing trend in the South Slough area. New owners are over-lighting their property causing light pollution.

Picture 007Light pollution is excessive use of artificial light. It includes unnecessary bright lights which trespass onto adjoining properties and cause glare and sky glow which brightens the night sky. The cause is poorly designed lighting and it’s harmful wildlife, humans and our climate.

Why do property owners install these types of lights?

Light pollution from plant daylights farm field
Industry lights spill onto farmland

Farm areas tend to be darker at night. Owners of homes and industrial parks alongside farms typically place excessive lighting on building exteriors believing this will stop crime.

Does it? No, the opposite is true and there is significant evidence to support this. Bright lights don’t prevent crime or accidents, they just cost a lot of money from wasted energy and they disturb the neighbours.

Woodward Slough.jpegThe South Slough area has a number of sloughs which are mosquito breeding grounds. West Nile virus has been found not far from here. This year there were far fewer bats and the diminishing number can’t  all be explained by white nose syndrome.

Bats are nocturnal and need darkness and our area is becoming too bright, so bats are moving elsewhere.

The has serious consequences for us. In one summer season, a colony of 150 brown bats can eat 38,000 cucumber beetles, 16,000 June bugs, 19,000 stinkbugs and 50,000 leafhoppers, according to the BC Ministry of Environment.

Light pollution daylights slough
Light pollution daylights slough

Light pollution is also affecting our frog population in the sloughs and our bird population which both also eat mosquitoes and other insects. Excessive light alters their behavior, disrupting their migration and feeding habits.

Eagles used to nest in trees above the Woodward Slough. After a car with a speeding teenager drove into the slough, the City responded by installing bright flashing lights that operate 24 hours.

Farms attract rats and the eagles were the only reliable predators. Now they’re gone and we’re left with so many rats our vehicle wires are being chewed through.

Continuous flashing lights beside quiet slough

Light pollution also affects farmers. It inhibits the production of the hormone melatonin, and interferes with circadian ryhthms and pineal gland function. This:

What is a solution?

The City should bring in a light pollution abatement bylaw which provides standards for lighting including shielded fixtures and downward aiming lights. Other local municipalities such as Delta and Saanich have implement bylaws.

South Slough area is in green at south of map. Used with the permission of City of Richmond
South Slough area is in green at south of map. Used with the permission of City of Richmond

In the long term, they save property owners and local governments money in energy costs, they lower our carbon footprint and they help bring back wildlife.

For my next blog I’m going to get outside and interview some locals. Action is the key according to Story Craft: the complete Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Jack Hart.