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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Regulating urban encroachment on agricultural land : a study of the relationship between small municipalities and the British Columbia Agricultural Land Commission Graesser, Alice Phillips


This is a study of the involvement of small municipalities with the British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) system. The analysis focusses on how the system operates to resolve differences between the province and localities over use of agricultural land. Case studies of five municipalities are presented. The thesis concludes that municipal priorities in use of designated agricultural land have usually prevailed, sooner or later, through operation of Reserve system procedures. Part I develops the implications of the ALR system, established in 1973, for small communities. On one hand, the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission (PALC) was mandated to slow the conversion of agricultural land to urban uses, and was impowered to exercise a form of zoning control for this purpose even within municipal areas. On the other hand, municipal governments with different priorities, such as creating new housing or industrial space, have typically wished to continue patterns of conversion of the agricultural lands within which they are situated. The Reserve system includes procedures, such as block exclusion applications, through which local governments can seek to have ALR land converted to urban purposes. Chapter 1 raises four questions about the experience of small municipalities with these procedures: 1. Are outcomes reasonable in the local situation? 2. Do small municipalities play an active and significant role in the process of deciding applications? 3. Is the ALR system subject to "regulatory capture" by municipalities? 4. Does "official community planning" supplement the formal Reserve system as a means of resolving provincial-local conflicts over use of agricultural land? Chapter 2 outlines the procedures and policies of the PALC for dealing with municipal applications and community plans. In Part II, case studies are reported for the municipalities of Keremeos, Armstrong, Salmon Arm, 100 Mile House and Merritt. In each case, all municipal transactions with the PALC from 1974 to 1979 are described. Information was obtained from Commission files, supplemented by interviews, site visits and local files. Community plans are also reviewed for their stance toward Agricultural Reserve land. Part III summarizes the experiences of the five municipalities and draws conclusions. Outcomes of municipal PALC relations are found to have been "reasonable" for the localities, inasmuch as the PALC has ultimately acceded to most exclusion applications, and these decisions have caused no evident "hardship" to local interests. The procedures suited the needs and resources of small municipalities well. Indeed, there is some indication of "capture" of the PALC and cabinet in the general success of initiatives from regulated communities. Community planning has rarely served as a means of resolving provincial-municipal differences, since the PALC has played a passive and pro forma role in assuring that the provincial interest in agricultural land preservation is expressed in key sections of plans which designate future land uses. The final chapter reflects on the implications of these findings for the balancing of provincial and municipal interests within the existing regulatory framework. Procedural changes are suggested which would offset factors which have tended to tilt the balance in favour of municipal preferences in this sector of the British Columbia agricultural land use regulatory regime.

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