B.C. has relaxed rules for farm owners to allow some tourism events

B.C. has relaxed rules for farm owners to allow some tourism events

Rules relaxed for tourism on farmland

NANAIMO - Owners allowed to host up to 10 events on land in the agricultural reserve.

The B.C. government has provided some fertile regulatory ground for farm owners who want to hold weddings, concerts and other events.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Agriculture announced a new regulation, that came into effect upon its announcement, which eliminates the requirement for owners of Agricultural Land Reserve farmland to get permits to host activities, such as commercial weddings, concerts and non-agricultural festivals.

The Agriculture Land Commission is an independent administration tribunal focused on preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming.

The new regulations are designed to help owners of land with farm status earn extra income through activities related to agri-tourism. ALR farm owners can now host up to 10 events per year with up to 150 guests for each event.

Restrictions also coupled to the regulation require that no new permanent structures be built on the land, all parking must be temporary, provided on the farm land and must not interfere with farm productivity.

The no-permit-needed policy also applies to other agri-tourism activities, such as farm tours and demonstrations, hay, tractor and sleigh rides, corn mazes and pumpkin patch tours and activities, Christmas fairs and other seasonal events, and special promotional events for farm products.

t’s welcome news to Laurie Gourlay, who with his wife, Jackie Moad, owns and operates an eight-hectare hay and fruit farm and bed and breakfast in Cedar, south of Nanaimo.

Last August, the couple was threatened with legal action by the Regional District of Nanaimo if they went ahead with a retreat for about a dozen writers. The warning followed complaints about the retreat and alleged contravention of zoning regulations stipulating no public assembly or camping on the property, even though the couple had hosted previous events.

The retreat went ahead, but while Gourlay welcomes the regulatory change, he supports it with the proviso it continues to provide protection for farmland.

“I’m certain of the full impact it might have if there were to be larger development interests purchase farms simply so they could hold events and the like,” Gourlay said. “That would concern me. As long as it’s supportive of farmers’ income, it seems like a reasonable approach that will allow a little extra income to be found somewhere out there.”

Larger and more frequent events will still require ALC permits.

To learn more about the updated regulation, please visit http://bit.ly/2aIREwc.