Trustees not tying ALR suites to farm status

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, October 17 2017

The Islands Trust will be hosting a community information meeting and public hearing in November regarding the Housing Options Project proposed bylaws.

All three members of the Gabriola Local Trust Committee say they are prepared to move into the formal public consultation process. 

The earliest a public hearing could be held, in accordance with the Trust’s legislative allowances, would be November 16. A Community Information Meeting (CIM) will be held sometime prior to November 16. Trustees said they did not want to have the CIM and public hearing on the same night - to give them and the public time to digest whatever is said at the CIM.

Staff and Trustees said they have heard from members of the public who are holding off on moving forward with new builds and renovations to see if changes are coming in what is allowed for secondary suites - in primary and secondary buildings - on properties over 5 acres in size.

No changes are being contemplated to allow secondary suites in dwellings on properties under 5 acres in size.

Trustee Melanie Mamoser said there has been plenty of time spent on the bylaws by the Trust Committee and the Gabriola Advisory Planning Commission (APC) - it is time to get the public’s feedback.

“We’ve had four APC meetings, with two different APCs, two community meetings, and we’ve seen no major substantial changes.”

LTC Chair Laura Busheikin said, “I don’t think anyone could call this rushed, considering the amount of time we’ve spent on these.”

Remaining in the bylaws will be a change to how secondary and tertiary dwellings are dealt with on properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Currently, a third dwelling (density) is allowed on a property if it is over 5 acres; if the property maintains farm status; and if the dwelling is a manufactured home - easily relocated in the event the property does not have farm status.

The change - supported by the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is to allow the third dwelling to be a suite as part of an accessory building or a manufactured home. 

The ALC has supported that the third dwelling not be restricted to properties with farm status - so long as all other regulatory requirements are met (in the ALR for example).

Trustee Mamoser said the math is as such.

“Right now, we are allowed these three dwellings. After this, you would be allowed three dwellings. No more. 

“To me that is clear, it might not be to others.”

As staff explained, expanding housing opportunities on ALR land is seen as a way to expand opportunities for farm families. Currently, it is next to impossible for many families to secure enough land in order for the farm to be successful. 

“So if you’re having to rent or live off-site, and have property to farm - that was out of reach.”

When multiple interests work together on funding a property - in whatever mixture of the three dwellings is possible - the odds of success of the farm in the first critical ‘seven years’ are higher.

The ALC has said it recognizes that in the gulf island context, there aren’t large family farms. 

Staff said, “These are people going into business together. The housing that supports the farm income, or helps get the farm off the ground - those are challenges that could be accommodated.”

Trustee Mamoser questioned why it wouldn’t then be tied to the farm status - if the intent is to improve farming potential.

Busheikin said, “our goal is to increase housing options, and it does and doesn’t overlap with the ALR mission of food security.”

Staff pointed out that tying the third dwelling to farm status could see tenants evicted if the primary farm owners lose farm status - meaning someone is evicted over something outside of what they are able to control.

Not tying to the third dwelling to farm status means it can serve as a source of income for the property owner; and further support either the primary; or secondary; or tertiary residents being able to farm on the property.

Mamoser said, “I’m moved by the housing argument. Rental security is a huge issue for young families on the island. And it is not an increase in density. We need rental security- the risk is low for someone who gains the income.

Staff added the ALC recognized that even if someone owns a piece of land in the ALR, and doesn’t intend to farm it - there is a huge population who will happily rent a suite and farm the land, and create the tax opportunity.

“ALR land in the gulf islands is not attainable by young families. This would allow young families to access this land in the ALR.”

A full copy of the bylaws being proposed can be found at the Islands Trust Northern Office; the Gabriola Public Library; and on the Islands Trust web site at
www.islandstrust.bc.ca