Seasonal events, like the annual Easter egg hunt, are popular attractions at Bird’s Eye Cove Farm. The farm’s owners are concerned that the province’s new Bill 52 threatens the future of the business. (File photo)

Seasonal events, like the annual Easter egg hunt, are popular attractions at Bird’s Eye Cove Farm. The farm’s owners are concerned that the province’s new Bill 52 threatens the future of the business. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley farmers argue for repeal of Bill 52

Limits on farm dwellings, other issue, raise concerns

Many farmers in the Cowichan Valley and across B.C. are encouraging people to sign a petition calling for provincial Bill 52 to be repealed.

Included in Bill 52, which took effect in February, is a new rule that prevents farms from having a secondary non-farm-use dwelling for immediate family and limits the size of residences over fears of “megamansions” of up to 12,000 square feet on land designated as Agricultural Land Reserve.

Critics claim that this makes it difficult for families to have multi-generational homes on their farmland, or for small farms to offer housing to their farm hands.

RELATED STORY: SECONDARY HOME RULES ARE KILLING FAMILY FARMS, B.C. PROTESTERS SAY

Bill 52 also requires requests for exclusions for land for other purposes in the ALR be submitted to the Agricultural Land Commission by local governments, First Nations or the province instead of by landowners “as part of thoughtful land-use planning process,” according to a government release.

For farmers like Heather Skoretz, owner of the 84-acre Birds Eye Cove Farm on Genoa Bay Road, Bill 52 throws a monkey wrench into future plans for the farm, and her family.

She said a second home on the property would provide a place where workers could live while on the farm, and a home for her kids when they eventually take over the operation.

Skoretz said she understands that building large mansions on agricultural land has become a problem in places like Richmond, but it’s not a problem in most parts of the province, including the Cowichan Valley.

“It appears to mean that when we retire, we will have to move off the farm,” Skoretz said.

“I think Bill 52 also threatens a farm’s ability to have shops, bistros and other opportunities to enhance the farm and increase their ability to survive. We’ve already had to cancel our popular pizza nights because the Agricultural Land Commission limited us to 30 events a year. This legislation is a concern for all farmers.”

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN FARM CAN CONTINUE PUBLIC EVENTS, BUT WITH RESTRICTIONS

Skoretz said she and her family attended a rally against Bill 52 at the Legislature on B.C. Agriculture Day, and she’s encouraging people to sign a petition that is on the Facebook page ‘Changes to Bill 52’.

“There are almost 30,000 signatures on it now and we want as many as possible to send a message to government.”

A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture said that Bill 52 is a key part of the B.C. government’s efforts to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve so that British Columbians can count on a safe, secure supply of locally grown food on their tables for years to come.

“Currently, farmers and ranchers are allowed two, three, four or more residences in the ALR, with permission from the Agricultural Land Commission,” the statement said.

“A core part of the ALC’s mandate is to protect farmland for farming and the Commission routinely approves additional residences for that reason. Every farm and ranch is different and each has its own residential needs that change over time, and the ALC reviews each application it receives separately and makes a decision based on the specific facts, consistent with their mandate.”

RELATED STORY: B.C. FARMERS CONCERNED AGRICULTURAL LAND RESERVE CHANGES CHOKING THEIR LIVELIHOOD

The statement said that during the consultation process on Bill 52, the ministry heard from families across B.C. that more changes are necessary.

“We’re now looking seriously at ideas like allowing flexibility for a small second residence, such as mobile homes or carriage houses,” the statement said.

“This option would require registering with the ALC but would not require an application or approval from the Commission, and this option would be for all ALR land owners, not just farmers.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Cowichan is looking for public input through a survey as it updates its Master Transportation Plan. (File photo)
North Cowichan looking for public input on transportation

Online survey to be held until April 22

West Shore RCMP arrested a 42-year-old man April 11 following numerous reports of someone firing a rifle in a Malahat campground. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP arrest man after shots fired at Malahat campground

Police received numerous reports of a man firing a rifle outside his camper trailer

Dave Kral, owner of the Cobblestone Inn in Cobble Hill, and his staff are frustrated with the new health restrictions banning indoor dining at restaurants in B.C. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Valley restaurants try to survive with new restrictions

Dining rooms ordered to close for three weeks as COVID-19 cases surge

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Most Read